02/19/2015 12:21 EST

Menopause Symptoms Could Last As Long As 14 Years

A new study has women everywhere sweating over what's coming for them later in life.

The paper, published in JAMA International Medicine, finds that while menopause generally lasts for an average of seven years, some women can experience symptoms of the condition for twice that amount of time.

The study, which ran between February of 1996 through April 2013, monitored 1,449 American women from four different ethnic groups — African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian and Asian. During that period, the women were checked 13 times for vasomotor symptoms (VMS), like hot flashes and night sweats.

Menopause, a natural part of the aging process, marks the end of women's reproductive abilities. According to the Canadian Women's Health Network, menopause symptoms can include weight gain, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, mood swings, decreased sex drive, fatigue, short-term memory issues, joint pain, itchy skin and upset bowels.

Researchers are now saying that in cases where women show signs of menopause while still menstruating, symptoms last longer. And that's not all. NBC News reports that the duration of symptoms also differed among ethnic groups. In the study, African-American women showed symptoms for an average of 10 years, while women of Asian descent were recorded as having symptoms for five years.

“These findings can help healthcare professionals counsel patients about expectations regarding symptoms and assist women in making treatment decisions based on the probability of them persisting," Dr. Nancy Avis, the study's lead author tells The Guardian. Currently, the Society for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada list five options for menopause therapy, including Hormone Therapy and Bioidentical Hormone Therapy. While both treatments are considered controversial due to unknown longterm effects, Health Canada has approved and recommends Hormone Replacement Therapy as a treatment for menopause symptoms.

Menopause is arguably one of the last few social taboos, and we want to change that. Share your stories on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below then visit our menopause page for real stories and new findings.

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