Katie Towles, MD, an OBGYN with Franciscan Physician Network Obstetrics and Gynecology in Lafayette and Crawfordsville, Indiana, answers your questions and shares expert insight on menopause and hot flashes.
Hot flashes or flushes are, by far, the most common symptom of menopause. About 75% of all women have these sudden, brief, periodic increases in their body temperature. Usually hot flashes, which vary in frequency and intensity for each woman, start before a woman's last period. For 80% of women, hot flashes occur for 2 years or less. A small percentage of women experience hot flashes for more than 2 years. These flashes seem to be directly related to decreasing levels of estrogen.
Q: I am well past menopause. Why do I still get hot flashes sometimes? Will they ever go away completely?
A: This is one of the most common questions asked from this age group. In a healthy menopausal woman, hot flashes are commonly related to the decrease in estrogen as the ovaries have shut down production of that hormone. However, hot flashes that start suddenly well past menopause can be a sign of other health problems such as medication side effects, thyroid disease or even certain cancers. So if it has been many years since you have entered menopause and you start having hot flashes, it is wise to visit your primary care doctor or a gynecologist. Hot flashes related to menopause can last from just a few years to up to 10 years or more. They tend to decrease with time. There are treatments that can help, both hormonal and non-hormonal options, so see a gynecologist to start the discussion for a better quality of life.