How long do hot flashes last in a woman's life? One recent study asked this question by following 255 women from premenopause to natural menopause. The authors found that moderate to severe symptoms of hot flashes continued on average 5 years after the date of the woman's last period. Unfortunately, up to 1/3 of the women continued to report hot flashes 10 or more years after menopause. Results also found that risks for hot flashes were higher in women who were African-American or in obese, white women. Higher education level was found to be protective against hot flashes.
The Mayo clinic states that while the exact cause of hot flashes is not known, there are several factors that may influence their occurrence. Changes in reproductive hormones in addition to hypothalamic shifts create a sensitivity to even slight changes in temperature. Women can experience a wide range of menopausal symptoms, with hot flashes ranging from sudden feelings of warmth that occur a couple times per day to profuse sweating that can occur up to one time per hour.
Menopause.org is a helpful resource for our patients, and lifestyle changes are offered such as avoiding stress, breathing techniques, and creating strategies to maintain body temperature within a limited range. Hormonal treatment and non-hormonal options are also described on this site, and while certain hormonal options may be contraindicated for some patients, there are therapies such as sleeping medications that may improve quality of life for a woman who is suffering significant sleep disruption. Decisions to utilize hormonal drug therapy may depend on many factors, such as benefits to risk ratios, if the patient has her uterus, and age of the patient. Many nonprescription options are also available, with conflicting or little evidence to support many of the claims. Regardless of the remedy that a patient may take for her menopausal symptoms, keep in mind that all medications or supplements should be reported to the physician and/or pharmacist so that drug interactions can be screened. Even herbal supplements can have a negative impact on other drugs that a woman is taking, so she should always fully disclose her medications, supplements (including teas!), creams, and other natural remedies.
If you are working with more women in the perimenopausal period, you may have questions about the hormonal changes and effects on rehabilitation. Faculty member Michelle Lyons will offer her new continuing education course called Menopause: A Rehabilitation Approach. At this course she will systemic changes in menopause, bone health, perimenopausal pelvic floor issues, sexual health, weight management, and procedures such as hysterectomy. The next opportunity to take this course is in February in Orlando - what a great time to head to the sunshine!