These are the thoughts of a cantankerous ol' gynecologist who remembers when things were a little different. I try to find a little humor in my life and the people I meet along the way. Come meet the characters in my world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hot Flashes – A Personal Journey

The only good thing about having hot flashes in January is, well, it’s January.  It’s easy to go outside, open a window, take off my sweater or turn the heat down.  I haven’t worn long sleeve shirts since about 2000.  By now, you would think I would have this hot flash thingy down.  I have been having hot flashes off and on since the late 1990s.  Fortunately, I went on treatment.  Unfortunately, a medication I started yesterday restarted the hot flashes.  At least my cheeks are nice and rosy.

Hot flashes are much more common in women than men, and usually related to our “change of life” or menopause.  They can be caused by medications or other problems.  As a gynecologist, this is a common complaint in my office.  Some women tolerate them well.  Others become irritable because of sleep disturbances.  Usually there are other symptoms of low estrogen.  If a woman has not had a hysterectomy, menses will often be irregular or stop completely. 

Many women do not want to try hormones.  There are non-hormonal “over the counter” treatments.  Soy products sometimes help because they work like estrogen.    We also sometimes use some blood pressure medications or other prescription drugs.  But, in my opinion, and in my experience, the best medication is good old estrogen - with progesterone if needed.  Of course, you should consult your very own physician.  And there are reasons some women cannot take hormones.  You should at least discuss it. 

Here’s a great article from USA today about why most other treatments don’t work for hot flashes.  I hate to say it (not really), but “I told you so!”

“It could be for one of several non-hormonal drugs, including some antidepressants, which modestly reduce hot flashes. But the first choice — except for women with a history of breast cancer or other health conflicts — is still hormone therapy (estrogen, often combined with progestin).

It reduces hot flashes by about 90% and "it's actually very safe, but that's not getting across to the public," Warren says.”

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