New evidence suggests that women who are HIV positive experience heightened menopausal symptoms. Women with HIV have reported more severe hot flashes than woman who are HIV negative, according to research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Women who reach menopause often experience irregular periods, mood changes, hot flashes, changes in arousal, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms occur when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. Menopause is marked by a permanent cessation in their menstrual cycle.
The study compared 33 HIV positive, perimenopausal – the period of time leading up to the final cessation of the menstrual cycle – women between the ages of 45 and 48 to respondents who were not infected with HIV. In the study, the HIV-positive women reported that hot flashes felt more extreme and were affecting their daily lives more than the respondents who didn’t carry the virus. According to the study, HIV positive women also reported more frequent issues with sleeping, anxiety, irritability and depression.
The severity of menopausal symptoms poses a threat to women with HIV by compromising their ability to adhere to their drug therapy regimen. The negative effects of hot flashes in HIV-positive women were even higher than what has been found in breast cancer survivors, according to the study. With an already weakened immune system and health concerns, heightened symptoms can be exacerbated in HIV-positive women.
The study has not determined why hot flashes and other menopausal side effects are more severe in women with HIV.