(RxWiki News) Menopause is a natural part of aging — and so are menopause symptoms. New evidence suggests, however, that some of those symptoms may last longer than conventional wisdom would hold.
A new study found that many women with frequent vasomotor symptoms in menopause experienced them for more than seven years.
Common reasons for menopausal women to seek treatment are flushes, hot flashes and night sweats. Collectively, these are called vasomotor symptoms (VMS).
In an editorial on this study, Gloria Richard-Davis, MD, of University of Arkansas Medical Sciences in Little Rock, and JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, wrote, "Recent research has overturned the dogma that VMS have a short duration, minimally affect women’s health or quality of life, and can be readily addressed by short term approaches."
Lead study author Nancy E. Avis, PhD, of the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, and colleagues said they believed that the findings of their study may help women make informed decisions about their health.
"The expected duration of menopausal vasomotor symptoms (VMS) is important to women making decisions about possible treatments," Dr. Avis and team wrote. For instance, women expecting VMS to last only a couple of years may choose different treatment options than those expecting VMS to last for a decade.
Menopause occurs when a woman stops having menstrual periods. During this time, estrogen levels have dropped in the body. Some women experience periods of increased blood flow to the face, neck and chest. This is accompanied by the sensation of extreme heat and sweating, often called a hot flash.
Current treatment options vary. Editorial authors Dr. Richard-Davis and Dr. Manson wrote, "Women who seek treatment for moderate to severe VMS should be counseled that a wide range of treatment options is available, including hormonal, nonhormonal, and behavioral or lifestyle."
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Advisory Board Member for the non-profit Nutritional Magnesium Association, told dailyRx News how many women deal with these symptoms.
"Women learn to dress in layers so they can take off or put on layers according to hot flash occurrence. Simply drinking ice water can help some women reduce hot flashes," she said.
Dr. Dean also recommended daily magnesium to relieve symptoms. "Magnesium citrate powder dissolved in water and sipped throughout the day can help relax the smooth muscles and nerves that are involved with the 'irritability' of VMS," she said.
This study by Dr. Avis and team included more than 3,300 women who were evaluated for frequent VMS. Frequent VMS was defined as having six or more days with episodes in the past two weeks. The patients were part of the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, which observed women at seven sites in the US from 1996 to 2013.
VMS lasted for a median of 7.4 years in women who were experiencing frequent VMS. This is considerably longer than some studies previously reported. Past research found that VMS lasted for two or three years.
The study and editorial were published online Feb. 16 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Dr. Avis and team disclosed no specific funding sources. Study author Dr. Joffe received grant support from Cephalon/Teva, served as a consultant to Noven and served on an advisory board for Merck.