Hot Flashes, Hot Flushes, Night Sweats: “Hot Women” Takes On New Meaning
I will never forget my first major hot flash. I was in my office interviewing a distinguished and very serious couple who were clearly distressed about the wife’s memory problems. As I was addressing their concerns in my most professional manner—WHAMMM! Suddenly my heart began to race, and my whole body was on fire, I turned bright red and the sweat started pouring down my face. My wool suit became unbearably itchy and I wanted nothing more than to rip off my clothes and put my head in the sink. Instead, I calmly took out a tissue, wiped my face and tried to ignore the husband’s horrified expression.
Do you know why we have hot flashes during perimenopause? You’re not alone; no one else does either. That’s why there isn’t a pill specifically designed for hot flashes. When a drug company gets close, I’m buying up their stock. Can you imagine the demand?
What we call hot flashes, hot flushes and night sweats are all vasomotor symptoms. These vasomotor symptoms occur in about 88% of perimenopausal women and 74% of menipausal women. For some women they diminish after one year – for some women they last 30 years!!
What we do know is that we have a thermostat in our bodies that closely regulates our body temperature. We have also known for some time that estrogen plays a key role in hot flashes which is why Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) is viewed as the most effective tried and true method for controlling them.
Here’s the good news for us “Hot Women”: now that we are beginning to understand how other factors such as neurotransmitters affect our thermostat we have additional ways to combat hot flashes.
Anti-depressant medications, specifically those that alter neurotransmitters (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – SSRIs) can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes by up to 50%. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology* reported that SSRIs have been shown to minimize hot flashes, but it seems that citalopram (A.K.A Celexa or Cipramil) might stand out above the rest. The added benefit is that SSRIs have been shown to improve mood, sleep, anxiety and overall quality of life in menopausal women.
Unfortunately, so many women I know refuse to go on SSRI’s because they consider it admitting defeat or failure. But, like in most areas, women need to let themselves off the hook. They need to admit that their neurotransmitters are out-of-wack and that it’s not their fault. The simple fact is that SSRI’s can help to give you back your premenopausal self. So if you’re feeling particularly steamy these days, go make an appointment with your doctor and check out your options.