July 9, 2013
A study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital indicated that women with HIV have more severe hot flashes than women without HIV, and the hot flashes have a larger disruption on their quality of life (QOL) and daily functioning.
The researchers administered questionnaires to 33 HIV-infected perimenopausal women ages 45-48 and to a matching group of women who did not have HIV infection. The questionnaires included information about hot flash frequency and severity, other menopausal symptoms, and the effect of these symptoms on daily activities and QOL. Researchers then compared the responses from both groups.
Women with HIV experienced moderate hot flashes compared to mild flashes in the uninfected women as well as more sleep disturbances, depressed moods, irritability, and anxiety. The hot flashes were severe enough to cause problems with work, social and leisure activities, concentration, relationships with others, sexuality, enjoyment of life and overall QOL than for women without HIV. The researchers noted that the QOL was worse than reported for breast cancer survivors.
The researchers were uncertain as to why hot flashes were worse in HIV-infected women and acknowledged that more research is needed. They also suggested that clinicians who treated middle-aged women should evaluate hot flashes and their impact and provide treatment to help, out of concern that the severity of the symptoms might create more instability in the women's already difficult lives and compromise their health and treatment program.
The full report, "Increased Hot Flash Severity and Related Interference in Perimenopausal Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Women," was published online ahead of print in the journal Menopause (2013; doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e31829d4c4c).