Menopause comes with all kinds of unpleasant symptoms, one of which is hot flashes. Hot flashes may occur during the beginning stages of menopause, or may not start until after the last menstrual cycle is completed. Hot Flashes will, in general, continue for three to five years – and in some cases are ongoing indefinitely.
The severity of hot flashes is different for every woman, but for about 15%, they are extremely severe and can be a real challenge. This is often the case for women who are taking tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer, or those that have had surgical menopause.
What are hot flashes exactly? Hot flashes are the brain’s way of controlling body temperature. When the body needs to cool itself, a hot flash may occur. When this happens, it may result in sweating, pink or reddened skin, heart palpitations, anxiety, or agitation. Hot flashes that occur at night are called “night sweats” and these may disrupt sleep, cause insomnia, fatigue, and mood changes.
So why do women in menopause get them? Because during this stage, a woman’s internal thermometer seems to be reset to a lower temperature, causing her to “overheat” more frequently.
How can they be treated or avoided? This all depends on how severe they are, and the impact they have, but in order to help alleviate hot flashes, menopausal women can avoid triggers like spicy foods, stress, alcohol, caffeine, and warm air. Women experiencing hot flashes should try and identify what triggers their hot flash, keeping a log can help you see common triggers, and thus avoid them. In addition, wearing layers so that you can regulate body heat by adding or removing clothing, staying in temperature controlled environments, and treat the symptoms. For example, keep an ice pack on hand for when you feel overheated.
Research shows that there are some techniques that can be employed to reduce hot flashes, such as deep-breathing exercises. Yoga can be very helpful for learning deep-breathing. Twice a day for 15 minutes, and again when you feel a hot flash coming can help.
Some medications are available, most containing plant estrogens, but be careful as many have not been evaluated for their safety or efficacy. If looking for a medical treatment, short-term hormone therapy is quite effective, as are antidepressants, talk to your doctor to see which might be right for you.
Hot flashes are just one of the symptoms facing Menopausal women. Mood swings, insomnia, light bladder leakage, weight gain, and more are all associated with this life change. These symptoms are a natural part of menopause, and not something to be ashamed of, however, they can be very embarrassing, and frustrating. Choosing the right tools to help manage the symptoms of menopause, and make life easier.
One of the most challenging and potentially embarrassing menopausal problems is that of light bladder leakage (LBL). As much as 30% of women going through menopause will experience bladder incontinence. The changes in estrogen levels can cause a weakening or thinning of the lining of the urethra, which can lead to more frequent need to urinate, sudden urges, pain, or leakage, particularly when one sneezes, coughs, laughs, or exerts any pressure on the pelvic floor. Urinary problems often persist and worsen in post-menopause due to the combination of changes to the urinary anatomy that occur with aging as well as estrogen loss.
Many women try to use “period pads” designed for feminine care use - products such as panty liners and pads like Always, Kotex and Stayfree to manage their LBL. Larger women find that regular sized pads don’t provide as much coverage and they can bunch, twist, rope up and leak. That’s why the new Poise Hourglass Pads were developed. They are specifically designed for larger women who are experiencing light bladder leakage due to menopause. It is specifically designed to fit a woman's shape, is available in 3 absorbencies, and is targeted specifically for urine leakage, unlike period only pads, making it a far better choice for protection.
(this post originally appeared on the CareGiver Partnership blog)
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