From hot to cold and back: the joys of menopause
When women are asked what symptoms they associate with menopause, « hot flashes » (or vasomotor symptoms in general) come out on top, at least in Europe and the United States1.
These hot flashes affect 75-80% of women in peri or post menopause.
The majority (60%) experience them for less than 7 years, but some (15%) for up to 15 years or more2.
Everyone’s experiences vary in terms of frequency and duration of hot flash episodes.
A typical example is a feeling of getting hotter and hotter, with the face on fire and the onset of sweating, the feeling of being cramped in one’s own body. 30 seconds, a minute later it’s already over, gone away as suddenly as it came.
For peri or postmenopausal women, these moments, however brief, are not only very unpleasant, but can penalize private and professional life.
A hot flash « crisis » in the middle of a negotiation meeting or in the middle of a key presentation has real destabilizing potential.
As for night sweats, they not only penalize the essential restorative sleep, but can affect the relationship with your partner.
The cause of vasomotor disorders is the hormonal imbalance associated with the transition period of menopause. However, the exact way in which hormonal changes trigger these symptoms is not known.
And this may be the reason why there is no consensus on how to manage them or their treatment.
Hormonal therapy would theoretically be the most effective treatment for moderate to severe cases, but some women may not be good candidates due to their medical history, or are reluctant to face the associated risks.
A classic recommendation in the general literature on the subject is to avoid triggers: alcohol, spicy food, hot drinks, etc. However, this goes against the results of clinical studies.
Likewise, the benefit of exercising for alleviating hot flashes is the subject of debate. When one study champions its effectiveness in dealing with hot flash episodes, another says it makes no difference!
Some studies speak of the potential benefits of foot reflexology, others of certain plants (evening primrose oil, for example). But they remain to be confirmed.
One thing is certain, with the (growing) number of women entering menopause, the potential of the market for the treatment of vasomotor disorders does not leave many pharmaceutical companies indifferent. A « miracle solution » in the not too distant future is therefore not completely to be ruled out.
However, to date there is no definitive answer off the shelf, and each individual case requires its own approach, to be discussed with your doctor.
Are you interested in the experiences of women at different stages of their menopause? Would you like a reminder of the physiology of menopause and the main symptoms? Download our free ebook, Menopause Story(ies).
1: source Prevalence of hot flushes and night sweats around the world: A systematic review. Climacteric : the journal of the International Menopause Society. 10. 197-214. 10.1080/13697130601181486.
2: source Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada
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