Is it getting hot in here? According to a recent report, some hot flash sufferers may answer with a resounding “yes” for up to 20 years.
The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that women who experience hot flashes and night sweats years before menopause will likely continue to have them for several years after.
“Hot flashes are usually described as an intense heat wave often starting in the face or upper body and then progressing through the rest of the body. They can cause perspiration and anxiety in some women,” says Dr. Leslie Gray, an OBGYN with Sharp-Rees Stealy Medical Group. “Night sweats are hot flashes that happen while asleep, often disrupting sleep but perhaps not waking the woman.”
In the past, it was believed that most women experienced these uncomfortable symptoms for three to five years around the time their menstrual periods stopped and menopause began. However, the SWAN researchers studied 3,302 American women and found that some women experience the symptoms as many as 10 years before their last period and continue to suffer for years after menopause, while others never experience a single hot flash or night sweat.The study found that women fall into four specific groups of symptom sufferers:
- Lucky Few — hot flashes follow the end of a woman’s menstrual period and are very mild or not experienced at all
- Late Onset — hot flashes are not felt until after menopause
- Early Onset — women experience hot flashes years before menopause
- Super Flashers — hot flashes are experienced well before and after menopause, sometimes for as many as 20 years in total
“Some studies indicate that women who experience hot flashes earlier in their lives have them longer than other women, but predicting the severity and duration of hot flashes in any particular woman is not possible,” says Dr. Gray.However, Dr. Gray does offer a few tips to help control or lessen the unpleasant symptoms when or if they strike:
- Avoid hot drinks, spicy foods and cigarette smoking, which can make hot flashes worse
- Maintain a healthy weight — overweight women can have more severe hot flashes
- Dress in layers and keep room temperatures cool
Dr. Gray also recommends that women who experience severe hot flashes should speak with their doctor, as there are a number of medications that may be helpful.
For the media: To talk with Dr. Gray about hot flashes or other women’s health issues, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.