Has menopause has got you down? The emotional swings, the crazy menstrual periods, the feeling that your mind is a blackboard that’s just been wiped clean. The long nights, restlessly tossing and turning in bed. And, oh yeah - how about those hot flashes?
Hot Flashes - The Killer Menopause Symptom (that Won’t Kill You)
Hot flashes are one of the truly irritating side effects of menopause. They’re not going to kill you (though they may make you want to kill whoever invented turtleneck sweaters). Ultimately, they’re not dangerous, unlike your gradually deteriorating bone density. No, hot flashes are just annoying. REALLY annoying. Like, if there had been an Eighth Plague of Egypt, hot flashes would have been it.
Wondering What a Hot Flash Feels Like?
What, you’ve never experienced a hot flash? Come on - that’s one of the very first things most of us get to complain about during peri-menopause. If you’re one of the lucky women who’s sailing through menopause without hot flashes, here’s an idea of what you’re missing: a volcano erupting in your chest, the lava flowing up your neck, into your head, and down your arms and legs. REALLY hot water being poured over you, from head to toe. Suddenly being set ablaze, then just as suddenly being doused in lukewarm water. You’re superheated, then chilled; or so thoroughly drenched in clammy sweat that you have to change your clothes (and the bed sheets, if you happen to be sleeping. Which you won’t be, once the flash hits.)
The Lancet Oncology, a monthly British journal focusing on cancer research, contains a small article in its June edition that will probably slip right past most people. But for millions of peri-menopausal and menopausal women, this article may hold the key to their health and happiness for years to come.
Hot Flash Study Results - A Small, But Intriguing Research Experiment
The author, Dr. Eugene Lipov of Advanced Pain Centers, an institution devoted to cutting-edge medical therapies and based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, tested a new treatment on 13 women with debilitating (over 80 per week) hot flashes - and it worked exactly as hoped for. This treatment, the so-called stellate-ganglion block, is an injection into the center of a group of nerves in the neck that controls body temperature.
The result? Study participants reported a 90% reduction in all hot flashes; and a nearly 100% reduction in severe hot flashes - for up to a year after the injection. And the side effects? Minimal: a temporary change in pupil dilation, and temporary drooping of the eyelid.
In addition, the women involved reported sleeping much better with the nerve block. Their average of 19.5 night awakenings a week (often caused by the onset of a hot flash) dropped to a mere 1.4 per week after the injection. Dr. Lipov, encouraged by results thus far, is now working on a radiofrequency treatment that would eliminate the injection.
**Only 13 Women Involved in Preliminary Hot Flash Treatment Study **
Dr. Lipov was the first to point out that the study was very small; didn’t include a control group; and will need to be repeated, on a much larger scale, to confirm the treatment’s effectiveness. But for those of us wishing we could fast-forward into post-menopause, or move to Antarctica for a few years, this small study could be the start of something big.
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.