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Women Can Have Up to 14 Years of Hot Flashes

February 28, 2016
Plain English Version
Sharon Brown uses fans in her job. Photo/Karen Tam for The New York Times

Sharon Brown uses fans in her job. Photo/Karen Tam for The New York Times

Menopause is the ceasing of women’s menstruation (periods). It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.

Nearly 80 percent of middle-aged women have hot flashes along with menopause. They usually last for just a few years. But hot flashes can continue for as long as 14 years.

A recent study reported on 1,449 women who had frequent hot flashes or night sweats.

The median length of time women endured symptoms was 7.4 years (half affected for less than that time, half affected for more than that time).

Twelve percent of women had hot flashes before they started menopause. These women were likely to continue having hot flashes after menopause for years longer than women whose hot flashes began with menopause.

Twenty percent of women have hot flashes after menopause (their periods) have stopped. “If you didn’t have hot flashes before menopause, then you will not continue to have them for as many years,” said an author of the study.

About two-thirds of women had hot flashes when periods sometimes occur and sometimes do not (called perimenopause).

Hot flashes can seize women day and night. Symptoms include excessive sweating and flushing of the face. Hot flashes are linked to estrogen levels.

Researchers followed the women in the study from 1996 to 2013. All participants had frequent symptoms: hot flashes or night sweats at least six days in the previous two weeks. None of them had a hysterectomy, or both ovaries removed. None was on hormone therapy.

The research found that the earlier hot flashes started, the longer they were likely to continue. Differences were found among ethnic groups in the length of time they experienced hot flashes.

  • African-American women – median of 10.1 years;
  • Asian women – median of 5 years;
  • Hispanic women – median of 8.9 years; and
  • Non-Hispanic white women – median of 6.5 years.

Some experts believe hot flashes can be associated with depression, stress, emotional issues and sleep interruption.

The North American Menopause Society  helps women deal with hot flashes.

Source: The New York Times February 16, 2015

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