For Edy Reilly, they came every half-hour without respite. The tyranny of her menopausal hot flushes disrupted every aspect of her life and caused her agonies of embarrassment, discomfort and tiredness.
'I hit the menopause at 54, and immediately the hot flushes started. They were horrendous. Every time I had one I felt as if I'd run ten miles in a fur coat which I couldn't remove,' recalls Edy, a soft furnishings adviser from Hertfordshire. The 57-year-old adds: 'My heart raced; sweat dripped down my back. Then the furnace heat would subside and I'd be cold. I'd wear layers of clothes and take them on and off to accommodate my constantly changing temperature. The flushes affected every aspect of my life, at home and at work, during the day and at night. I never had a restful night's sleep and I was constantly exhausted. I felt absolutely desperate.'
Edy - like many women suffering similarly debilitating mid-life symptoms - had briefly tried and rejected hormone replacement therapy. HRT, once heralded as a cure-all for every malaise that accompanies the menopause, suffered a huge drop in demand in 2002 when a Women's Health Initiative study linked it with an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
It is still on the GP prescription list, and is used by an estimated 50 per cent of menopausal women, but will usually be prescribed for just five years - and only if a patient does not have other risk factors such as family history of heart disease or breast cancer.
However, eight years after the WHI study, research has focused on safer alternative ways of minimising symptoms.