If you ask women about their most common menopause symptom, a significant number of them would probably tell you about hot flashes. According to WebMD, hot flashes happen in more than two-thirds of North American women during perimenopause and in almost all women who have experienced hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries), induced menopause or premature menopause.
In other words, if you are going through menopause, chances are you will suffer from hot flashes at some point. Hot flashes are uncomfortable, inconvenient, unhealthy, and did you know that if left untreated, those hot flashes may have a lasting impact on our country's economy?
Women experiencing hot flashes suffer from more than just a few uncomfortable moments of being too warm. Those hot flashes are often accompanied by other symptoms, included disturbed sleep, depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. The price tag associated with untreated menopause symptoms is a bit staggering. Untreated hot flashes may lead to impaired work ability, cause women to take more sick days, and significantly increase health care visits and associated costs.
In a study by Sarrel et al. 2015, published in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society, researchers analyzed medical claims from 1999 to 2011. The study shows untreated hot flashes are associated with higher health care utilization, work loss, and total cost. For a 12-month period, one-quarter million women with hot flashes were compared with an equal number of carefully matched women without hot flashes. The women with hot flashes had 1.5 million more patient visits than the women without hot flashes.
The authors of the study also looked at work absenteeism and disability data for about 2.5 million working women. Results of the study reported by One Cape Health News indicate each untreated, symptomatic woman spent $1,135 more on outpatient visits and $168 for pharmacy costs per year than their peers. The women with hot flashes were also more likely to miss work, which was estimated to cost $770 per person annually. The extra health care and lost-work costs for the untreated, symptomatic women during the one year of the study totaled almost $367 million.
Essentially, leaving your hot flashes untreated has you at the doctor's office more often than if you sought treatment. Missing work for doctors appointments or because you feel physically incapable of working means less income for you and less productivity for your employer.
Untreated hot flashes may impede a woman's ability to function at 100 percent on a daily basis. But you don't have to suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor about hormonal and non-hormonal options that control the number and intensity of hot flashes. Lifestyle changes may also reduce the number of hot flashes a woman suffers. Make sure you dress in layers and invest in a fan for your personal workspace. Skip the hot liquids, caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods since they may increase the incidence of hot flashes. Drink more water, and make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet. Reduce stress and increase the amount of exercise you get on a daily basis – yoga is an option that serves both purposes for some women.
Hot flashes can be uncomfortable, and if left untreated, may have long-lasting effects on the economy –and your health. Make sure you take steps to alleviate your hot flashes for your own personal well-being, as well as the health of your budget.
Menopause and Hot Flashes. WebMD. Retrieved November 26, 2015. http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-hot-flashes
Symptom Checker. Drugs.com. Retrieved November 26, 2015. http://www.drugs.com/symptom/hot-flashes-2.html
Sarrel PM. Portman D, Lefebvre P, et al. Incremental direct and indirect costs of untreated vasomotor symptoms. Menopause. 2015; 22: 260-266.
Hate those hot flashes? Wait until you see the bill. One Cape Health News. Retrieved November 26, 2015. http://onecapehealthnews.com/hate-those-hot-flashes-wait-until-you-see-the-bill/
Reviewed November 29, 2015
By Philip Sarrel, M.D. and Lorna Sarrel, M.S.