14 Years!? A New Study Changes the Conversation on The Duration Of Hot Flashes Related to Menopause.
A study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and reported over several news outlets, which states that the median duration of vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, sweats) related to menopause is approximately 7 years, with some women experiencing them for up to 14 years. (The term “median” means that half of the women in the study will have symptoms for less than 7 years, half will have them for longer.) This flies in the face of conventional medical wisdom, which has previously stated that symptoms will usually last from 6 months to 2 years.
For many, including much of the medical community, the fact that symptoms seem likely to last longer than 2 years is news. In contrast, I imagine the reaction of many of you right now is a resounding: DUH!
Unfortunately for many women, current recommendations are that we should limit treatment to the shortest time possible, most commonly stated as no more than 5 years. If symptoms last 7-14 years, this will leave many women continuing to suffer. Combine that with the inherent risks of some of the more traditional therapies for menopause (i.e., hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants) and many women are left with what appear to be few acceptable options for treatment.
In reality, there are many options available. In addition to conventional hormone therapy (i.e., synthetic estrogen, oral contraceptives) and non-Hormonal medications (i.e., antidepressants), Lifestyle/Behavioral alterations (i.e., exercise, smoking cessation, dietary modifications) and Alternative Medicine (i.e., acupuncture, massage, herbal therapies) have also been shown to be extremely effective.
Bioidentical Hormones, which are identical in their chemistry to the hormones we all produce naturally, are another great way to treat not only the vasomotor symptoms, but also all the other symptoms of menopause (mood swings, irritability, trouble sleeping, and anxiety, to name just a few). They can be supplied in pills, sublingual (under the tongue) “troches”, patches, creams, injections, or subcutaneous (under the skin) pellets, and can be dosed more precisely and adjusted on a more individual basis than conventional hormone therapies.
As with any medical condition, treatment for vasomotor symptoms – including behavioral changes and alternative approaches – should always be discussed with a physician first. Preferably, your doctor should have an understanding of all the available options and be able to advise you about the risks and benefits of each.
Conventional medical thinking still sees menopause as a single, uniform entity, which should respond to a standard set of treatments. Once a diagnosis of menopause is made, everybody tends to be treated the same. This ignores the inherent individuality of human beings. It is absolutely vital that your physician take a look at you as an individual, really evaluate all aspects of your health, and not simply give you a diagnosis and a pill.
Every woman is different. Only by addressing all of the unique contributing factors to your symptoms will you experience adequate, and lasting, relief.
So stop the suffering and give your doctor a call.