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October

Women still have hot flushes and night sweats years after the menopause

Women still have hot flushes and night sweats in their late 50s and 60s - 10 years after the menopause, finds a new study led by Professor Myra Hunter from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s and published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Hot flushes and night sweats (HF/NS) are the main physical signs of the menopause, however their prevalence, frequency, severity and duration vary considerably.   The average age of the menopause in US and European women is 50-51 years and it has been generally assumed that the symptoms HF/NS last from 2 to 5 years.

10,418 postmenopausal women, aged between 54 and 65, took part in the study. The study looked at the effects of age, BMI, hysterectomy, hormone therapy use, lifestyle and mood on women’s experience of the HF/NS symptoms using questionnaires.

The majority (89.6%) of women had experienced the menopausal symptoms at some time, more women having had hot flushes (86%) than night sweats (78%). However, over half (54%) of the women were currently having HF/NS and the prevalence was fairly even across the age range. The frequency of those HF/NS episodes was 33.5 per week and this remained broadly at this level across the 54 to 65 age range.

The study also found that factors, such as previous hysterectomy and having been a smoker, that helped to predict women who have ever had HF/NS. Moreover, anxiety, hysterectomy, depressed mood, years since last menstrual period,(less) education and past hormone therapy use helped predict current HF/NS prevalence.

Professor Myra Hunter said:  ‘Our study looked at a large number of postmenopausal women and we were surprised to find that menopausal symptoms persisted in over half of the women. They were still having hot flushes on average ten years after their last period.

‘Age didn’t seem to affect the prevalence or frequency of the symptoms, but women who had taken hormone therapy and who had stopped reported more HF/NS. Health professionals need to be aware that women can still have hot flushes and night sweats in their late 50s and 60s. There is a need for effective non-hormonal treatments for those who have problematic hot flushes and night sweats, and for women who have a recurrence of hot flushes after they stop taking hormone therapy.’

The study was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) for Mental Health at King’s IoP and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust; and the NIHR University College London Hospital/University College London Comprehensive BRC.

 

For full paper: Hunter et al., (2011), ‘Prevalence, frequency and problem rating of hot flushes persist in older postmenopausal women: impact of age, body mass index, hysterectomy, hormone therapy use, lifestyle and mood in a cross-sectional cohort study of 10 418 British women aged 54–65’, BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. doi:10.1111/j.147-0528.2011.03166.x  

For more information, please contact Despina Koniordou, Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, email: iop-pr@kcl.ac.uk or tel: 0207 848 5377

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