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Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that moderate to severe hot flashes continue, on average, for nearly 5 years after menopause, and more than a third of women experience moderate/severe hot flashes for 10 years or more after menopause.
Current guidelines recommend that hormone therapy, the primary medical treatment for hot flashes, not continue for more than 5 years.
However, the authors write that "empirical evidence supporting the recommended 3- to 5-year hormone therapy for management of hot flashes is lacking."
Hot flashes are episodes of intense radiating heat experienced by many women around the time of menopause. They can result in discomfort, embarrassment, and disruption of sleep.
Changing hormone levels are believed to cause hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, memory and concentration problems, anxiety, irritability, and joint and muscle pain.
In hormone therapy, medications containing female hormones replace the ones the body stops making during menopause.
While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is considered the most effective treatment for hot flashes, it is not appropriate for all women.
In addition, concerns about health hazards linked to HRT have made some doctors less likely to prescribe it, or to adhere strictly to recommended duration guidelines.
"Our findings point to the importance of individualized treatments that take into account each woman's risks and benefits when selecting hormone or non-hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms," study's lead author, Ellen W. Freeman, PhD, research professor in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn Medicine, said.
"While leading non-hormone therapies such as Paxil or Escitalopram may provide some relief of menopausal symptoms for some women, for others, they may not be as effective as hormone-based therapy," she said.
The study is published online in the journal Menopause.