Are There Any Treatments for Symptoms of Menopause?
There are a number of different treatment options to consider if you're suffering from symptoms of menopause.
Lifestyle changes. A healthy diet and regular exercise program will go a long way towards minimizing the symptoms of menopause and helping to maintain overall good health. It is also a good idea to finally kick any old, unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol. Other interventions that may be helpful are to dress lightly and in layers and avoid potential triggers like caffeine and spicy foods.
For vaginal dryness, moisturizers and nonestrogen lubricants such as KY Jelly, Replens, and Astroglide are available.
Click here for more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle after menopause.
Prescription medication. Treatment with estrogen and progesterone, called combination hormone replacement therapy (HRT), can be prescribed for women who still have their uterus, if they have moderate to severe symptoms of menopause. Estrogen alone is the prescribed regimen for women who have had a hysterectomy (no longer have their uterus).
In the past, HRT was widely recommended for the treatment of menopausal symptoms as well the prevention of osteoporosis and heart disease. A large study known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shed new light on how HRT is viewed.
According to the WHI study results, combination HRT increases the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, blood clots, and stroke. Estrogen-only HRT was found to increase the risk of blood clots and stroke but did not increase a woman's chance of getting breast cancer or heart disease. Although the WHI study found an increase in the risk of heart disease in women taking combination HRT, a more recent study suggests this finding may not be relevant to all postmenopausal women.
A study published in the March 5, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported on WHI participants three years after they stopped combination HRT therapy. The researchers found that "many of the health effects of hormones such as increased risk of heart disease are diminished, but overall risks, including risks of stroke, blood clots, and cancer, remain high." The study also concluded that the increased risk of breast cancer appears to linger and "other effects of combination hormones, such as decreased risk of colorectal cancer and hip fractures, also stopped when therapy ended."
More studies are under way to investigate the relationship between HRT and heart disease. In addition, many women may not be candidates for HRT. These women include those with current or past breast or uterine (endometrial) cancer, blood clots, liver disease, stroke, women who may be pregnant, or who have undiagnosed vaginal bleeding.
The current recommendations for women who are candidates for HRT due to moderate to 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, HRT should be re-evaluated every six to 12 months. Hormonal patches, creams, gels, and vaginal rings may be alternatives to the traditional pills, depending on the symptoms.
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. Medications originally used as antidepressants may help relieve hot flashes. These include low doses of fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and venlafaxine (Effexor). Other medications such as clonidine and gabapentin may help to reduce hot flashes related to menopause. These medications may also be used in addition to HRT in some cases. Also, the drugs Brisdelle (paroxetine) and Duavee (conjugated estrogens/bazedoxifene) are formulated specifically to treat hot flashes. Talk with your doctor about what is best for you.
Click here to learn more about hormone replacement therapy.
Alternative therapies. There are many unproven methods for alleviating menopausal symptoms, some of which may be 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 natural -- remedies, like Remifemin (black cohosh), dong quai, and ginseng, although more research is needed to check their effectiveness and safety. Talk to your doctor before taking any of these therapies.
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