Night sweats and hot flashes associated with menopause aren’t really a short term problem- the findings of a new study have revealed that more than half women experience many unpleasant symptoms for upto 7 years or more.
“Women should not be surprised if their hot flashes last a number of years,” said lead researcher Nancy Avis, a professor of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Around four in every five women experience night sweats and hot flashes even before their menstrual cycle ceases, leaving them with around 12 years of unpleasant symptoms. These findings have been published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Feb 16, and has focused on the need to find out more safe and effective ways to tackle menopause symptoms.
Menopause and its associated symptoms are known to affect the quality of life by disrupting sleep and also worsening physical health. These symptoms basically arise due to low levels of estrogen and other hormones. Hot flashes turn out to be the most common among these symptoms, and while hormone replacement therapy could turn out to be a great option for those affected, it is avoided by many due to its link to increased breast cancer risk.
“Also, women who have had breast cancer cannot take hormone replacement therapy,” Avis added. What’s more, a recent study has also linked the use of hormone replacement therapy and a 40 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer.
However, alternatives to hormone therapy do exist. “Talk to your doctor about your symptoms if they are interfering with your quality of life. There are effective treatments available,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Some women may need multiple types of treatment for their hot flashes.”
Oral contraceptives taken in low doses can effectively reduce the occurrence of hot flashes and night sweats in women, particularly those who are experiencing symptoms even before the onset of menopause.
Plus, non hormonal treatments and therapies are also available for women who experience these symptoms during menopause. “As a first step, some simple things might help. These include dressing in layers; avoiding caffeine, alcohol, smoking and spicy foods; drinking cold water, and keeping one’s room cool,” researchers explain.
To add to that, low doses of antidepressants such as Effexor (venlafaxine) or Paxil (paroxetine) could also relieve hot flashes.
“Women who do not want to take pharmaceuticals — they invariably have side effects — have tried alternatives such as acupuncture; yoga; slow, deep breathing; and meditation,” she said. “These techniques work for some women.”