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Vasomotor Symptoms (VMS)

VMS in menopausal women are commonly known as hot flashes and night sweats. As estrogen levels fall during menopause, the neurons believed to be the key modulators of the heat dissipation response become hyperactive. This leads to VMS, including sensations of heat and/or perspiration that generally last several minutes and are often preceded or followed by sensations of cold and/or shivering.

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It is estimated that VMS are experienced by approximately 80% of women in menopausal transition, or approximately 20 million women in the United States at any given time. VMS interfere with the lives of affected women in many significant ways, including disrupting patients’ ability to sleep and concentrate, which can cause anxiety and depression. VMS tend to start in the peri-menopausal period and continue for an average of 7.4 years but may last for up to 12 years, according to recent data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [Current standards of therapy include hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, and a variety of over-the-counter treatments. While HRT is effective in treating VMS, many women are reluctant to use HRT due to the increased risk of breast cancer associated with prolonged exposure, which was first elucidated in the findings of the Women’s Health Initiative2. Currently approved non-hormonal therapies for VMS do not address the underlying hormonal dysregulation associated with this common symptom of menopause.

References

  1. Avis, NE, et al. Duration of Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms Over the Menopause Transition. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr 1; 175(4): 531–539. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4433164/
  2. Chlebowski RT, Hendrix SL, Langer RD, et al. Influence of estrogen plus progestin on breast cancer and mammography in healthy postmenopausal women: the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Trial. JAMA 2003; 289:3243.

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