By Chandra Shekhar
VIVIAN AIZAWA of Salinas vividly remembers the first time her body was hit by a heat wave out of the blue -- an episode of warmth, flushing and sweating that "almost felt like climate change," the 53-year-old says. The hot flashes and night sweats affected her sleep and strained her relationships. "It is ruining my life," she told her doctor.
Nearly three out of four women will share Aizawa's experience as they go through menopause. Many, in fact, will get hot flashes and night sweats several times a day for years, each episode lasting from a few seconds to several minutes.
"It impacts literally millions of women worldwide," says Dr. Wulf Utian, president of the Ohio-based North American Menopause Society, a nonprofit that promotes menopause research. "While not life-threatening, it is a major impediment to their quality of life."
For relief, women have tried dozens of remedies: herbs, low-fat diets, antidepressants. Then, in 1942, came a major advance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Premarin, a form of the female sex hormone estrogen extracted from horse urine. Since then, extensive studies have shown that the hormone, either alone or in combination with other sex hormones, really works: It relieves moderate to severe symptoms in 90% of women who take estrogen.
Looks like things are not getting any easier for pregnant women. And things are not getting any easier for menopausal women either. In related news, it’s again been a banner year for single, middle class men. First hormone therapy was sliced bread V2. And then hormone therapy was the devil. And then some women could take it and some couldn’t. And then age was a factor. Some women don’t respond at all to the hormones and some respond negatively, so other treatments are needed. It looks like some antidepressants are helpful, even if they are from different classes of medicine (Reuptake Inhibitors vs fluoxetine et al). This raises even more questions about the nature of menopause problems (hot flashes only raise core temperature by 1/10 of a degree Fahrenheit, weird). Whatever, everyone who doesn’t need a product (no matter its efficacy) derived from horse urine should be grateful.