Your Guide to Menopause
Are There Any Treatments to Help Alleviate the Symptoms of Menopause? continued...
The current recommendation for women who suffer from severe symptoms of menopause is to take the lowest dose of hormones needed to relieve the symptoms of menopause and/or prevent osteoporosis. It is recommended to limit the use of the hormones to the shortest time period and, as with any prescription medication, hormone therapy should be re-evaluated every 6-12 months. Hormonal patches, creams, gels, and vaginal rings may be alternatives to the traditional pills.
If you are unable or do not want to take hormones, there are other medications that your doctor can prescribe to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause. These may include antidepressants for mood swings and difficulty sleeping. Other medications such as clonidine and gabapentin can help to reduce hot flashes related to menopause. These medications may also be used in addition to hormone therapy, in some cases. Talk with your doctor about what is best for you.
- Nontraditional therapies. There are many unproven methods for alleviating menopausal symptoms, some more effective than others. Acupuncture, meditation, and relaxation techniques are all harmless ways to reduce the stress of menopause, and some people report great benefit from these practices. Many women also try herbal, or so-called natural remedies, like Remifemin (black cohosh), dong quai, and ginseng. Talk to your doctor before taking any of these therapies.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy?
- Prevents bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis
- Relieves symptoms of menopause
- Lowers risk of colon cancer
- Lowers risk of macular degeneration, vision loss that occurs when the macula, the part of the retina at the back of the eye that provides sharp, central vision, deteriorates with age
While hormone therapy may help many women get through menopause, the treatment is not risk free. Known health risks include:
- An increased risk of endometrial or uterine cancer (if a woman still has her uterus and is not taking progesterone along with estrogen)
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Increased risk of stroke
- Increased risk of gallbladder disease
- Increase in blood pressure in some women
- Increased risk of larger, more invasive breast cancers (combination HRT only)
The decision to use hormone therapy after menopause should be made by a woman and her healthcare provider after weighing all of the potential risks (including breast cancer, stroke, and blood clots) and benefits (relief of menopause symptoms and prevention of osteoporosis). Scientists are continuing to study the effects of HT. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.