4 drugs that can alleviate menopause symptoms

Menopause can come with a myriad of symptoms. Most will go away eventually, but if you're suffering, here are some medications that can help.

4 drugs that can alleviate menopause symptoms

1. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

  • Reviews of studies find that HRT reduces both the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, up to 90 percent, compared to about 50 percent for a placebo.
  • HRT also helps improve bone density.
  • The caveat: a major study found higher rates of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke in women who took an estrogen-plus-progestin drug.
  • The same study also discovered higher rates of stroke in women who took an estrogen-only drug.
  • Today doctors generally advise women to use HRT for no more than a year or two. Some studies suggest you can use it for up to five years without risk.
  • Studies find that using the lowest possible dose of estrogen significantly reduces the risks of any negative side effects.
  • It also provides relief from hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and other symptoms.
  • If your primary complaint is vaginal dryness and pain, incontinence or urinary tract infections, ask your doctor about vaginal estrogen tablets, creams or rings.
  • Recent studies found that women who wore low-dose estrogen patches had significantly higher cognitive function than women wearing placebo patches.

2. Antidepressants

  • Even in low doses, the drugs fluoxetine, paroxetine and venlafaxine can help regulate body temperature and curb hot flashes.
  • They may not work as well as HRT.
  • In one study of 87 women with a history of breast cancer, those who took Prozac averaged 19 percent fewer hot flashes than those who took placebos.

3. Gabapentin

  • This drug was originally developed to treat epilepsy but is used for a variety of other medical conditions, including hot flashes.
  • An analysis of two clinical trials found gabapentin reduced the average number of hot flashes by 2.05 a day, compared with placebos.

4. Clonidine

  • This blood pressure drug has a modest effect on menopause symptoms.
  • An analysis of four major studies found that women who took it experienced an average of one fewer hot flash per day compared to those taking placebos.
  • Studies suggest that clonidine works best in women with breast cancer who're being treated with drugs like tamoxifen.
  • It doesn't work as well in women who reach menopause naturally.

Technically, menopause is just one day in your life: the day 12 months after your last menstrual period started. But it's the months and years leading up to it that your estrogen levels jump up and down. One of these medications, however, could help relieve your symptoms.

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