Menopause: Is it hot in here?

Menopause is the period of time during which the ovaries stop working completely, so that menstruation no longer occurs.

Menopause Symptoms

You may have none of the following symptoms, some of them, or all of them:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Dryness of the eyes, mouth, nose, vagina
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Decreased sexual desire and diminished orgasm
  • Dizziness
  • Migraines
  • Sleep disorder
  • Fatigue
  • Formication (an itchy sensation that feels like insects are crawling under the skin; there is no rash or redness that goes with this sensation.)

More In-depth Discussion of Menopause Symptoms

Hot Flashes

A hot flash is the most common symptom of menopause. Depending on which source you read, 70 to 85 percent of menopausal women in America have hot flashes. A hot flash (called a "hot flush" in Great Britain) is a feeling of heat that comes over the face, shoulders, head and upper torso. It is often accompanied by sweating. Some women, also may experience rapid heartbeat, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, or a feeling of weakness. A hot flash can last a few seconds or a few minutes. In rare incidences it may last as long as an hour. Hot flashes are most common between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., and between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

The cause of hot flashes

No one is really sure what causes a hot flash, but the lessened estrogen makes the hypothalamus go out of control. The hypothalamus regulates appetite, sleep cycles, sex hormones and body temperature. Like a thermostat that has been pushed up too high, the hypothalamus, under the influence of the decreased estrogen, raises the body's heat. In response, the brain sends out a red alert in an attempt to cool down the body. The heart pumps faster, the blood vessels send more blood through the system, and the sweat glands release sweat.

Factors that trigger hot flashes

  • Stress
  • Heat
  • warm clothing
  • warm weather (There are more hot flashes in summer than winter.)
  • hot showers
  • drinking hot beverages (Tea and coffee are especially problematic because of the caffeine.)
  • drinking alcohol
  • certain medications (Sudafed and other over-the-counter sinus remedies that contain the chemicals related to adrenaline, for example, may be a trigger.)
  • emotional upset
  • an overactive thyroid
  • high blood pressure that is out of control. (Consult a physician to be sure that hot flashes are due to menopause and not to some other underlying cause.)
  • Loss of Sexual (Desire Research indicates that 30 to 35 percent of menopausal women undergo some loss of sexual interest. This may be partially due to the lack of vaginal lubrication and the resulting painful intercourse. However, it is primarily due to the decrease in hormones produced in the woman's system. This reduction in hormones (both estrogen and testosterone) may also have an effect on orgasm. Women often find it takes longer to reach orgasm, and that orgasm may be reached less often and/or the orgasm may be less intense. For the majority of women, these changes are not serious and do not alter the woman's level of sexual pleasure. For some women, the decrease in intensity actually leads to a deeper, "sexier" orgasm.)