Menopause brings all sorts of hormonal changes that transform a woman’s body into a ticking bomb that is ready to burst into flames at any time. Hot flashes are a serious problem that some middle-aged women have to face 24/7 and they are not pleasant at all. The feeling of always being in a way too warmed up environment, being unable to feel happy about a hot summer day, waking up all sweaty and agitated, mood variations – these are just some of the symptoms brought by the hot flashes of menopause. Medicine books say that 80 percent of women that are found in their middle age years are about to experience such problems. Also, doctors say that these hot flashes last about seven years, or maybe one half of a year more. But statistics come around to infirm all these information. A new study that has been published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine found that they can continue for as long as 14 years and the intensity of them is worse if they start sooner.
The study has covered the cases of 1,449 women that are different racially, ethnically and geographically and it is the largest study to date about this particular issue. Researchers have stated that half of the women have had these symptoms for about 7.4 years, whereas the other half of them has experienced hot flashes for more than 14 years. The women came from seven American cities, from 1996 to 2013. An important fact to specify is that none of the volunteers have had a hysterectomy or both ovaries removed, and none were on hormone therapy. Unfortunately for some of them the personal data has been excluded from the study at the moment they started the hormonal treatment.
Sharon Brown, 57, of Winston-Salem, N.C. said that she has been dealing with hot flashes for six years.
“It’s miserable, I’ll tell you what. At my job at a tax and accounting office, I have had to stop wearing silk. I keep one of the little fans with me at all times — one in my purse, a couple in my desk, and some in just random places in the office. I’ll be so glad when they stop — if they ever stop.”
Those women that have experienced the hot flashes before the menopause, while they still had theirs periods, have had the unfortunate chance to be left with the hot flashes even more years than those that have felt them just when their menopause began.
Dr. C. Neill Epperson, director of University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness wasn’t involved in the study but he believes that hormonal changes happen at another intensity and frequency at sensitive women.
“That having symptoms earlier in the transition bodes ill for your symptoms during menopause — that part is certainly new to me.”
The study has shown that from all 1,449 women, only one fifth of them have experienced hot flashed after their menopause has begun. One in eight women feels the uncomfortable flash while still having her regular, normal periods. When periods start to become more and more sporadic and irregular, two-thirds of women start detecting into their daily routine this tedious body reaction.
Nancy Avis, a professor of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the study’s first author confirms the findings, saying that if you don’t have hot flashes until you’ve stopped menses, then you won’t have them as long and if you start later, it’s a shorter total duration and it’s shorter from the last period on.
But what are the hot flashes exactly? They are basically linked to drops in estrogen and seem to be controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain. An important finding has been that those women who experience early hot flashes are also facing the risk of cardiovascular issues and bone loss.
Dr. Risa Kagan, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation in Berkeley said that this is a real-world study of women that we are all seeing say in and day out. She believes that there hasn’t been made any other studies like this and she is true.
Dr. Andrew Kaunitz, an obstetrician-gynecologist at University of Florida who was not involved in the study either, has publicly exposed his opinion about the case.
“I’m not at all suggesting that hot flashes are manifestations of depression, but they’re both brain-related phenomena, and depression is also more common in the same groups.”
He thinks that stress, fatigue and emotional issues could influence the appearance or maintaining the hot flashes, but it is a insecure theory. Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, chief of preventive medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an author of a commentary accompanying the study believes that those women who have a lot of stress in their lives are more aware of the symptoms and perceive them as being more bothersome. However, if stress isn’t an issue, it can become one, because waking up every night because of abundant sweats can easily lead to stress.
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