What are Vasomotor Symptoms of Menopause?
Vasomotor symptoms refer to the symptoms that accompany menopause or peri-menopause that are associated with the sudden opening of blood vessels that are close to the skin. This is mostly due to the fluctuations in the hormone levels in the blood stream. Examples of Vasomotor symptoms include; hot flashes, sweats, night sweats and flushes.
During menopause, there are many changes that occur within a woman’s body. There is less and less production of such hormones as estrogen and progesterone. This leads to less production of eggs from the ovaries and consequently erratic periods are experienced by the woman. In addition, the woman experiences such symptoms as vaginal dryness, anxiety, lack of concentration with hot flashes and night sweats being the leading symptoms. It is estimated that close to two thirds of American women experience hot flashes during their early menopause years. Most women start their menopause at the age of 51 in the USA.
- Hot Flashes, Night Sweats, Flashes and Sweats: these are the most commonly experienced of the symptoms at least in the early stages of menopause. The symptom is marked by a feeling of perspiration and heat that lasts for some minutes followed by shivering, chills and even palpitations in some cases.
- Vaginal Dryness: Vaginal dryness is a condition where there is less stimulation of the vagina and uterus by the estrogen hormone leaving it less lubricated for any sexual encounter. This leads to a condition called dyspareunia.
- Psychological Distress: This is characterized by anxiety, irritability, depression, fatigue and lack of concentration.
Causes of Vasomotor Symptoms of Menopause and Risk factors
Hot flashes are associated with the erratic decline in estrogen flow and the subsequent release of gonadotropin (luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone).
According to Gynecol Endocrinol, in their 2009 issue of May, vasomotor symptoms are caused by the decreasing* estradiol concentrations mainly in the serum and hypothalamic temperature regulatory centers. The decrease* in estrogen affects neurotransmitter activities in noradrenergic and serotonergic pathways.
While vasomotor symptoms greatly affect the quality of life, recent studies are seeking to understand whether such symptoms could be a pointer to something bigger than a quality of life issue. There has been a growing concern among medical researchers associating vasomotor symptoms to Cardio-Vascular Disease and HT. In addition, there have also been concerns whether cardio-vascular risk factors differ in women who have vasomotor symptoms and those who do not have vasomotor symptoms. Research has also confirmed that women who smoke are at a higher risk of having vasomotor symptoms and are also predisposed to cardiovascular diseases. Obesity in women has also been associated with vasomotor symptoms.
Well, risk factors for vasomotor symptoms may not be so clearly defined. Statistics indicate that 40% of American women seek treatment for their menopausal symptoms. The figure seems to be higher in Caucasian women compared with either blacks or black American women. The Asian woman also seems to have less of the vasomotor symptoms when compared to their counterparts in North America. For the most part, these differences have been associated with differences in diet, lifestyle, environment, and social factors. Studies are still ongoing as to whether vasomotor symptoms can be linked to weight, hysterectomy, health status and vascular conditions.
Treatment of Vasomotor Symptoms
Vasomotor symptoms are a common part of a woman life. They are bearable for most women and with time, they are bound to pass. Women in menopause are encouraged to do frequent exercises as they enable for healthy and speedy functioning of processes in the body.
There are however situations when the symptoms are unbearable and may affect the quality of life. Such situations may call for medical interventions. HRT has been in use for quite some time and has been effective for the women who have used it. Women considering this option should counsel with their doctors. This is because its usage has been associated with increased risk for acute pancreatitis, stroke, breast cancer, heart disease and endometrial cancer.
Dietary considerations have been a major contribution in the treatment of vasomotor symptoms in women. Though with limited conclusive research, western diets have been shown to increase* the risk of vasomotor symptoms as compared to natural diets.
- Use of soy products in conjunction with a vegetarian diet and grains has proved to work mostly for the Asian woman. This is in comparison to the meaty diet with dairy products mostly used by the American woman.
- Red clover
- Black cohosh and
- Low fat diets are some of the dietary supplements that different traditional medicines have used on menopausal women for centuries and have had positive effects on vasomotor symptoms.
Stress Management: Stress management techniques like relaxation, slow deep breathing, and behavioral interventions have proved to help with stress related to menopause.