What are the Treatment Options for Menopause?
Menopause itself is a normal part of life and not a disease that requires treatment. However, treatment is possible if the symptoms of menopause become substantial or severe.
Prescribed Menopause Treatment:
- Estrogen and Progesterone Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy (HT), also referred to as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT), consists of estrogens or a combination of estrogens and progesterone (progestin). Hormone therapy has been used to control the symptoms of menopause related to declining estrogen levels such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and HT is still the most effective way to treat these symptoms. But long-term studies (the NIH-sponsored Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) of women receiving combined hormone therapy with both estrogen and progesterone were halted when it was discovered that these women had an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer when compared with women who did not receive HT. Later studies of women taking estrogen therapy alone showed that estrogen was associated with an increased risk for stroke, but not for heart attack or breast cancer.
Estrogen therapy alone, however, is associated with an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) in postmenopausal women who have not had their uterus surgically removed. The decision about hormone therapy is very individual decisions in which the patient and doctor must take into account the inherent risks and benefits of the treatment along with each woman’s own medical history. It is currently recommended that if hormone therapy is used, it should be used at the smallest effective dose for the shortest possible time. The WHI study findings do not support the use of HT for the prevention of chronic disease.
- Oral Contraceptive Pills
Oral contraceptive pills are another form of hormone therapy often prescribed for women in perimenopause to treat irregular vaginal bleeding.
Prior to treatment, a doctor must exclude other causes of erratic vaginal bleeding. Women in the menopausal transition tend to have considerable breakthrough bleeding when given estrogen therapy. Therefore, oral contraceptives are often given to women in menopause transition to regulate menstrual periods, relieve hot flashes, as well as to provide contraception. The list of contraindications for oral contraceptives in women going through the menopause transition is the same as that for premenopausal women.
- Local (vaginal) Hormone Treatments
- Antidepressant Medications
The class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and related medications has been shown to be effective in controlling the symptoms of hot flashes in up to 60% of women. Most literature research discourages the use of antidepressants due to the many side effects.
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