Are There Any Treatments for Symptoms of Menopause?
There are a number of different treatment options to consider if menopause is disrupting your life. The most common symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, mood problems, trouble sleeping, and vaginal dryness.
Hormone Therapy. 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 and oophorectomy (surgical removal of their uterus and ovaries). These are the most effective treatments for hot flashes, and can also help with vaginal dryness and mood problems. Hormonal patches, creams, gels, and vaginal rings are alternatives to the traditional pills, depending on the symptoms. Treatment is usually started before age 60 and taken up to 5 years.
Some women may not be candidates for HRT. These women include those with breast or uterine (endometrial) cancer, blood clots, liver disease, heart disease stroke, women who may be pregnant, or who have undiagnosed vaginal bleeding.
Nonhormonal therapy. If you are unable or do not want to take hormones, there are treatments that your doctor can prescribe to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause.
If you have vaginal dryness without hot flashes, you can try vaginal estrogen. It’s a much lower dose of estrogen than the medications used for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. It comes as a cream, tablet, or ring and is placed in the vagina. Medications originally used as antidepressants may help relieve hot flashes.
Yoga, meditation, deep breathing and other relaxation techniques are all ways to reduce the stress of menopause, and some people report great benefit from these practices.
Plant based estrogens and herbal products like black cohosh are sold to help hot flashes, but their effectiveness is not proven. Women with a history of breast cancer should avoid them, because of the concern that they may increase the risk of recurrence. Talk to your doctor before taking any of these therapies.
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.
- National Institutes of Health. Journal of Women’s Health, Jan/Feb 2006.
- The North American Menopause Society.
- The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.
- The National Women’s Health Information Center.
- WebMD Medical News: “Is Hormone Therapy Helpful at All?"
- Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008.