Millions of women have stopped taking hormone replacement therapy in recent years and that has led to a rise in the number suffering hot flashes, a new Yale School of Medicine study shows. What’s more, the researchers estimate hot flashes cost nearly $61 million per year in healthcare expenses and lost wages.
The study, published online in the journal Menopause
, found women who suffer hot flashes are more likely to visit a doctor or healthcare facility and drop out of the workforce, Medical Xpress
"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 Philip Sarrel, M.D., emeritus professor in the Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, and Psychiatry. "This also places demands on health care and drives up insurance costs."
For the study, Dr. Sarrel and his colleagues tracked health insurance claims from more than 500,000 women, half of whom suffer hot flashes. The team found women who experienced hot flashes had 1.5 million more healthcare visits each year than women who didn’t — suggesting the annual cost to the nation is nearly $34 million. The cost of work lost was another $27 million during the 12-month study period.
Hot flashes are the result of loss of ovarian hormones in the years just before and after menopause. For women who have a hysterectomy, symptoms may occur almost immediately following surgery and are usually more severe and long lasting. More than 70 percent of all menopausal women
and more than 90 percent of those with hysterectomies experience moderate to severe hot flashes — also called vasomotor symptoms — that affect daily function.
In the past, hot flashes were treated with either hormone therapy or alternative approaches. But following the 2002 publication of the findings in the Women's Health Initiative Study, linking HRT to increased health cancer risks, there has been a sharp drop in its use.
"Women are not mentioning it to their healthcare providers, and providers aren't bringing it up," said Dr. 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."
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