August 29, 2014
Menopausal Hot Flashes Cost Millions In Lost Wages
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
One of the inescapable facts of growing older for women is menopause. As our hormonal systems change, so do the needs and functions of our bodies. In our grandmothers' day, menopause was treated with hormone therapy, but that practice has fallen by the wayside in recent years — with consequences. Millions of women suffering in silence with hot flashes is a preventable side effect of the decline in hormone therapy, according to a new study led by the Yale School of Medicine.
The researchers, led by Philip Sarrel, M.D., emeritus professor in the Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, and Psychiatry, found that, for most women, moderate to severe hot flashes, known as vasomotor symptoms (VMS), are not treated. Women suffering from VMS have other symptoms as well, including fatigue, sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety and impaired short-term memory.
"Not treating these common symptoms causes many women to drop out of the labor force at a time when their careers are on the upswing," said Sarrel. "This also places demands on health care and drives up insurance costs."
The researchers used data collected as part of health insurance claims. They compared data from 500,000 women, 50 percent with and 50 percent without hot flashes, all insured by Fortune 500 companies. Using this data, the researchers calculated the costs of health care and work loss over a 12-month period.
Their findings, published in the journal Menopause, revealed that women who suffered from hot flashes have 1.5 million more health care visits than those without VMS. This has costly side effects: the cost of the additional health care came to $339,559,458 and the work loss represented another $27,668,410 during the study period.
The loss of ovarian hormones in the years just before and after natural menopause is the main cause of hot flashes. The symptoms can occur almost immediately following a hysterectomy, and for these women, they are usually more severe and longer lasting. VMS affects the daily function of more than 70 percent of all menopausal women and more than 90 percent of those with hysterectomies.
Until recently, hot flashes were treated with either hormone therapy or alternative approaches. The 2002 Women's Health Initiative Study findings, however, caused a sharp drop in the use of hormone therapy because of an unfounded fear of cancer risks.
"Women are not mentioning it to their healthcare providers, and providers aren't bringing it up," said Sarrel. "The symptoms can be easily treated in a variety of ways, such as with low-dose hormone patches, non-hormonal medications, and simple environmental adjustments such as cooling the workplace."
A Woman's Guide to Menopause and Perimenopause - Yale University Press Health & Wellness