A new drug shows significant promise in reducing hot flashes in menopausal women, according to a study published in the UK’s medical journal, The Lancet.
A hot flash is a sudden rise in temperature accompanied by sweating, feeling flush and turning red. Some women experience an increased heart rate as well. Hot flashes are often associated with women in menopause.
During the trial period, the drug, known as MLE4901, was shown to reduce hot flashes in women by almost 75 percent. The drug blocks the body chemical, neurokinin B. Neurokinin B, also known as NKB, has been known to cause hot flashes in laboratory rats, as well as women in other research studies. By blocking the body from producing this chemical, the drug will block hot flashes.
The study, performed at the Imperial College London, not only showed that participants in the research trial experienced hot flashes with less frequency, but also a reduction in the severity of the flashes as well. Participants in the study were between the ages of 40 and 62 and had not had a menstrual cycle in a year.
The developers behind the drug hope that it will not only reduce hot flashes but could possibly be an alternative to hormone replacement therapy.
Some women do not respond well to hormone replacement, or cannot undergo hormone replacement therapy due to other health conditions. Hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk or recurrence of breast cancer in some women. Some also women experience an increased risk of blood clots as a consequence of hormone replacement therapy.
"Any reduction in menopausal hot flashes would significantly impact many patients' quality of life," Dr. Mona Alqulali, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
Alqulali is a Clinton, Iowa, OB-GYN, treating women for their menopausal symptoms.
Menopausal women may experience just a few hot flashes per year, while others have them up to 30 times per day.
"A 75 percent reduction in hot flashes for a patient who is having 20 to 30 episodes a day is significant," Alqulali said.
Menopause is a natural occurrence in most women. During menopause, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, and the body stops ovulating. Menopause usually occurs in women between 40 and 55 years of age, but hormone levels may begin falling sooner that. Some women experience menopause after having a hysterectomy, other reproductive surgical procedure or other medical intervention.
There are three phases of natural menopause; perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. Perimenopause begins a few years before more menopause when the production of estrogren slows down. Perimenopause typically lasts one to two years before menopause begins.
"Menopause can last several years for some individuals, but the average is typically about four years," Alqulali said.
After menopause ends, women enter postmenopause. Most women experience a reduction in menopausal symptoms during this time. However, there is still an increase risk of developing some serious health conditions as a result of estrogen depletion.
Aside from hot flashes, women undergoing menopause also experience excessive sweating at night known as night sweats, weight gain, excessive bleeding or irregular periods and changes in their hair and skin quality.
"Women going through menopause experience many different physiological changes which may occur over several years," Alqulali said.
Hot flashes lead to excessive sweating, which can be embarrassing to many women in the workplace and social situations. Many women suffer through the early years and uncomfortable symptoms of menopause because their condition frequently goes undiagnosed.
Women with the symptoms of menopause should discuss their symptoms with their doctors to develop a plan of treatment. Menopause has other health consequences for women beyond the reproductive system, like a higher risk of osteoporosis and cardiac health implications.
Imperial College London. "New experimental drug offers hope for menopausal women with frequent menopausal hot flushes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2017.