It's also hard to know for sure that hot flashes were the cause of women's less-positive perceptions of their own health.
"This tells us that bad hot flashes are a marker for feeling unhappy," Curtis said. "But are they the cause?"
Still, she commended the researchers for trying to estimate the impact of hot flashes with the data they had. "It's an interesting study, and these are important questions," Curtis said.
Like Gass, Curtis said the results also validate women's experiences. "You're not crazy for feeling bad," she said.
The findings are based on nearly 3,300 women. Most said they either had no hot flashes and night sweats, or mild symptoms. But almost 500 said they had moderate symptoms, while nearly 150 rated them as severe.
One-quarter of employed women with severe symptoms said the problem hindered them at work, compared with just 4 percent of women with mild hot flashes and 14 percent of those with moderate ones. Curtis pointed out, however, that the percentages are based on small numbers: just 43 women with severe hot flashes were employed.
When it came to day-to-day activities, almost one-third of women with severe hot flashes felt held back, versus 6 percent with mild symptoms and 17 percent with moderate ones.
The good news is there are ways to make your hot flashes less frequent or less intense. For severe symptoms, Curtis said, the most effective treatment is hormone therapy -- usually a combination of estrogen and progestin. For now, it's also the only treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for easing hot flashes.
But doctors and patients have been wary of hormones ever since a U.S. study a decade ago linked the therapy to increased risks of blood clots, heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. The general advice now is for women with hot flashes to
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