Treatment for menopause depends on many things, including how bad your symptoms are, your overall health, and your preference. It may include lifestyle changes or hormone therapy.
Hormone therapy may help if you have severe hot flashes, night sweats, mood issues, or vaginal dryness. Hormone therapy is treatment with estrogen and, sometimes, progesterone.
Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy. Your doctor should be aware of your entire medical history before prescribing hormone therapy (HT). Learn about options that do not involve taking hormones.
Several major studies have questioned the health benefits and risks of hormone therapy, including the risk of developing breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots.
Current guidelines support the use of HT for the treatment of hot flashes. Specific recommendations:
- HT may be started in women who have recently entered menopause.
- HT should not be used in women who started menopause many years ago, except for estrogen vaginal creams.
- The medicine should not be used for longer than 5 years.
- Women taking HT have a low risk for stroke, heart disease, blood clots, or breast cancer.
To reduce the risks of estrogen therapy, your doctor may recommend:
- A lower dose of estrogen or a different estrogen preparation (for instance, a vaginal cream or skin patch rather than a pill)
- Frequent and regular pelvic exams and Pap smears to detect problems as early as possible
- Frequent and regular physical exams, including breast exams and mammograms
If you have a uterus and decide to take estrogen, you should also take progesterone to prevent cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer). If you do not have a uterus, you do not need progesterone.
See also: Hormone therapy
ALTERNATIVES TO HORMONE THERAPY
There are other medicines available to help with mood swings, hot flashes, and other symptoms. These include:
- Antidepressants, including paroxetine (Paxil), venlafaxine (Effexor), bupropion (Wellbutrin), and fluoxetine (Prozac)
- A blood pressure medicine called clonidine
- Gabapentin, a seizure drug that also helps reduce hot flashes
DIET AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Hormones are not always needed to reduce symptoms of menopause. There are many steps you can take to reduce symptoms.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods.
- Eat soy foods. Soy contains estrogen.
- Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D in food or supplements.
Exercise and relaxation techniques:
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Do Kegel exercises every day. They strengthen the muscles of your vagina and pelvis.
- Practice slow, deep breathing whenever a hot flash starts to come on. Try taking six breaths a minute.
- Try yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
- Dress lightly and in layers.
- Keep having sex.
- Use water-based lubricants or a vaginal moisturizer during sex.
- See an acupuncture specialist.
See also: Managing menopause at home