The hot flush (or flash as the Americans say) is typically an experience of utter and abruptly unexpected discomfort that the menopausal woman experiences due to hormone shifts that are associated with this time of her life, around age 50. The age at which most women approach their menopause is 50-51, and menopause is typically described as absence of or waning menstruation over 6 months period, often associated with other menopause specific symptoms like the hot flush.

Heat arises centrally and spreads to fingers so that a tingling feeling in the hands is often described. This unwelcome experience often occurs at night and therefore some people call them ‘night sweats’. The whole ordeal usually lasts up to 5 minutes and can leave many women with insomnia and fatigue and loss of quality of life.

The NAMS (North American Menopause Society) and SAMS (South African Menopause Society) amongst others recognise that this menopause related symptom can severely affect quality of life, and therefore recommend the use of hormone therapy if not otherwise contraindicated.

When to consider talking to your doctor about hormone therapy:

  • Frequent hot flushes causing insomnia and fatigue or generally decreased quality of life
  • Other menopausal symptoms that can negatively affect quality of life and where hormone therapy can offer relief: Vaginal dryness, new onset sexual pain or associated recurrent urinary tract infections, loss of libido, etc.

Measures of management:

  • Conservative measures which are most important: Weight loss, exercise, promoting good interpersonal relationships and marriage health.
  • Other measures can be discussed at length with your GP/women’s wellness practitioner/ gynaecologist.
  • Medical therapy use is usually advised over a period from 2 years to 5 and often longer.