Why do they not give patients medicine for hot flashes before the blood test shows menopause is present?
Actually, many doctors do write prescriptions for hormones without blood tests and this is often justified. Without knowing your age or anything about your health history, it sounds as if your doctor is being cautious and thorough.
When a woman in her late 40s or early 50s has hot flashes, chances are it is a symptom of menopause or impending menopause. But hot flashes and night sweats may be symptoms of many other conditions, including lymphoma, infections, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, panic attacks and AIDS-related diseases. Your doctor may want to confirm that it is menopause causing your symptoms and not a serious disease.
On the other hand, there is no surefire blood test to diagnose menopause until long after it has occurred and probably long after you have started having symptoms. Blood tests detect levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). But levels of these hormones may fluctuate substantially until well after your body stops ovulating and menstruating.
Women who are still menstruating may begin experiencing symptoms such as hot flashes several years before their periods stop. This time is known as perimenopause. For these women, the LH and FSH tests are not very helpful in determining menopause. But if you have already stopped menstruating, you are likely to get a more definitive answer, along with a prescription for estrogen or combination hormone therapy.
If you do start taking hormones, you might want to look at them from two perspectives. One is for short-term use for up to five years as a treatment for the symptoms of menopause. These symptoms usually do not last more than a few years. Long-term use carries some risks along with the possible benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Your doctor can help you evaluate your personal health profile to decide if long-term hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
To help with hot flashes, don’t smoke, exercise, take vitamin E (400 to 800 Iu a day) and consider adding soy and flax seed oil to your diet.