October 19, 2021

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How long will menopause last? Understanding and dealing with hot flashes and more

During a woman’s childbearing years, her journey is a hormonal roller coaster that is triggered by a range of hot flash symptoms. They are the hallmark symptom of menopause and often take a toll on a woman’s health and well-being. As many as 80% of women who go through menopause, experience hot flashes reported Harvard Health Publishing.

A hot flash can appear suddenly and is a feeling on intense heat and it can cause sweating, tingling sensation in the fingers, rapid heartbeats and even the face getting flushed. Duration of a hot flash can be anywhere between 4 – 10 minutes and it varies from women to women.

Menopause is a time of realisation and reflection for most women. Afterall you are transitioning from one phase of your life to another. You experience changes in your physical state and your emotions. Your ability to bear children is impacted. Your social roles may start to change as you age. All these things can have a deep effect on a woman. The ending of your fertile years can bring a sense of relief as well as grief, depending upon the individual. But it is a phase no woman can avoid and has to learn to cope with it.

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While multiple studies are being attempted to understand them, there is one clear understanding that they are a result of hormonal changes in the body. Menopause-related hot flashes usually follow a consistent pattern but the pattern could be different for one another. Factors such as obesity and metabolic syndrome are thought to increase the incidence of hot flashes. Additionally, factors such as eating spicy foods, consuming caffeine and alcohol in large quantities, and health conditions such as thyroid, diabetes, and tuberculosis can exacerbate the condition.  

While there can be multiple triggers for hot flash the most common ones are caused by alcohol consumption, spicy food, intake of excess caffeine, increased stress levels, smoking or even wearing extremely tight clothes.

One may be able to reduce the frequency of their hot flashes if they figure out their triggers, and try to avoid them. However, no treatment is guaranteed to prevent hot flashes, but there are multiple options that help manage symptoms. In short, the goal of the treatment is to lessen the severity and frequency of hot flashes. While there are several low-risk coping strategies and lifestyle changes that may be helpful in managing hot flashes, one could always opt for prescription drug therapy if their conditions are severe.

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The most effective hot flashes treatment is estrogen-based hormone therapy, though it comes with several downsides, according to Harvard Health Publishing. It is a therapy that is reckoned as effective but poses a risk of stroke, blood clots, and other health problems in women at older ages. But as with any medication, it’s best to opt for a low dose initially that effectively relieves the symptoms and to take it for the shortest time possible.

Lifestyle changes can also have a positive impact and help in coping with the symptoms in a more effective way. Eating a balanced and wholesome meal is crucial coupled with a regular exercise regime. Smoking and excessive drinking should be avoided and in fact, healthy lifestyle can reduce the chances of cardiac issues and osteoporosis.

Yoga is considered an effective way and it is well-suited to combat hot flashes that many menopausal women reports. Meanwhile, paced respiration helps decrease hot flashes. Meditation helps a woman relax throughout this period.

Seeing a gynaecologist can help a woman understand her body and hot to care for it, post-menopause. It gives a sense to the woman of what is normal for her. Let the gynaecologist find problems early so that they can be treated on time. so, a woman should go for regular health checks.

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Although menopause marks a point in time when a woman has not menstruated for 12 months and is no longer ovulating (releasing any eggs from her ovaries), its symptoms may persist for longer than anticipated. However, most women stop having hot flashes within five years following their final menstrual period. But oftentimes it’s tricky telling whether these symptoms are truly from a lack of estrogen in the body or from the natural processes that go along with ageing.

But even if it begins earlier or later for some women, there’s always a healthy version of having menopause. This is a new phase on women’s life but it is important that women do pay close attention to their gynaecological health and visit the doctor for proper medical advice especially if the symptoms cannot be managed. This is just another stage of life like childhood or adolescence. With a proper support system and confidence, every woman has the ability to deal with it.

About the author: By Dr Sangeeta Gomes, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Sarjapur, Bangalore

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