1. Health

Medical Treatments for Menopause

Prescription Medications for Menopausal Symptoms

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Updated April 28, 2008

Menopause is a normal stage of life, and does not need “treatment” in the sense that a medical condition or disease needs treatment. But like puberty – that other hormone shift in a woman’s reproductive life – menopause creates physical changes and symptoms that can be troublesome. When you turn to a health care provider for help with these symptoms, there are a number of medications that can offer relief.

Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT)

This treatment is also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), Estrogen Therapy (ET), and Estrogen Progestin Therapy (EPT).

MHT is a combination of estrogen and/or progestin which eases menopausal symptoms caused by changing levels of hormones. It is often prescribed for

  • Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
  • Maintaining Bone Density
  • Vaginal Dryness

Hormone therapy has risks, and it is not a good choice for some women. Women who take MHT are at higher risk for:

  • Stroke and heart disease for women who start therapy after age 60
  • Hormone dependent breast cancers
  • Uterine cancer, especially when estrogen alone is used
  • Migraine headache
  • Gall Bladder Disease

Some women should definitely not be on hormone therapy, including women who have:

  • A history of breast, ovarian or uterine cancer
  • A history of blood clots
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Liver Disease

Anti-Hormone Therapy

Anti-hormone therapy uses a class of drugs called Selected Estrogen Reuptake Modulators or SERMs, which act like estrogen in some beneficial ways, like keeping bones strong, yet do not have the same risks associated with estrogen. These medications, also called “Designer Estrogens” are being developed and refined to minimize risks and boost their ability to treat menopausal symptoms.

Antidepressants

Some antidepressant medications are used to treat menopausal symptoms. In particular some of the Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) medications have proven helpful in treating mood swings and hot flashes.

Other Medications

Some other non-hormonal medications that have been helpful for menopausal symptoms are

  • The anti-seizure drug Gabapentin for hot flashes
  • Blood pressure medications such as Clonidine for hot flashes
  • Bisphosphonates such as Fosamax and Boniva for treating osteoporosis.

Medical treatment of menopausal symptoms may be needed for very short periods of time or for many years, depending on your history, symptoms and risk factors. Many women need little or no medical treatment during the menopausal years. Other women turn to natural or alternative treatments. Most symptoms of menopause are treatable either medically or with alternative remedies. If you think medical treatments might help you weather the hormone ups and downs of menopause, check with your medical provider -- your changing hormones don’t have to rule your life.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Facts About Menopausal Hormone Therapy, NIH Publication No. 05-5200, June 2005. 10 Oct. 2007.

FDA Office of Women's Health, "Menopause: Medicines to Help You.", FDA Office of Women's Health, Sept. 2007. 10 Oct. 2007.

National Institute on Aging, "Hormones and Menopause: Tips from the National Institute on Aging", National Institute on Aging, July 2006. 10 Oct. 2007.

Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, M.D., et al, "Best Clinical Practices, Chapter 13," International Position Paper on Women's Health and Menopause: A Comprehensive Approach, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, March 2002. 10 Oct. 2007.

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