Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What causes hot flashes?

        Health | Menopause

Treating Hot Flashes
A woman holds her hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches.
A woman holds her hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

The first line of defense against hot flashes is finding a way to control the triggers. This isn't an impossible task, but it may be difficult for some to accept because it almost always requires some form of lifestyle change. For example, if you really enjoy eating spicy Mexican food but determine that it triggers your hot flashes, clearly it's in your best interest to stay away from it. If you realize you're having hot flashes after enjoying that afternoon cigarette, you should probably quit smoking. This simple lesson can be applied to all hot flash triggers: If you determine that a certain environmental factor is triggering your hot flashes, avoid it.

There are several known methods for managing the symptoms of hot flashes. You could ask your doctor for a prescription for an antidepressant, like Prozac, or an epilepsy medication, like gabapentin, or you could do something as simple as making sure that you get regular exercise, which can help reduce the symptoms of hot flashes. Making flaxseed a part of your daily diet has been an effective herbal remedy for reducing hot flashes in some people.

For years, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the premiere treatment for hot flashes until concerns were raised about its link to breast cancer and stroke. You may be surprised to learn that hormone replacement therapy is still available as an option; however, when HRT is selected as a treatment, it's now understood that it's best to use the lowest dose possible for the shortest period of time. Even lower risks are associated with this method of treatment when HRT is delivered in patch form versus taking the treatment orally.

If you're dealing with the discomfort of hot flashes, the good news is that there's always new research underway. In fact, a recent study shows that an injection of a local anesthetic into the nerves of the neck that regulate body temperature can greatly reduce hot flashes, although this treatment has only been used for cancer patients to date [source:].

With so many people worldwide dealing with this terribly uncomfortable condition, it's good to know that doctors and researchers are still actively pursuing a cure for hot flashes. Follow the links on the next page to read more about hot flashes and hot flash related topics.