The most effective treatment for hot flashes is estrogen, but taking this hormone can increase your risk of developing other health problems in the future. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs also may help reduce hot flashes. Discuss the pros and cons of various treatment plans with your doctor. If hot flashes don't interfere with your life, you may need no treatment at all. For most women, hot flashes fade gradually within a few years.
Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones used to reduce hot flashes. Women who have had a hysterectomy can take estrogen alone. But if you still have a uterus, you should take progesterone along with estrogen to protect against cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer). With either regimen, current recommendations are to use the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time needed to relieve symptoms.
Before starting estrogen therapy for menopause symptoms, review your heart-disease risk factors with your doctor, and weigh the benefits of symptom relief against the risk — remote but recognized — of developing heart disease as a result. Estrogen therapy is not a good option if you've ever had a blood clot or breast cancer.
As an alternative for women who can't take estrogen, some doctors prescribe progesterone alone to help control hot flashes.
Low doses of certain antidepressants may decrease hot flashes. Examples include:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor, Pristiq)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
However, these medications aren't as effective as hormone therapy for severe hot flashes and may cause side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, weight gain or sexual dysfunction. But they can be very helpful in women who cannot use estrogen or progesterone for relief of hot flashes.
Other prescription medications
Jun. 11, 2011
- Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise). Gabapentin is an anti-seizure medication that's moderately effective in reducing hot flashes, particularly for women who have symptoms at night. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness and headaches.
- Clonidine (Catapres, Jenloga, Kapvay, others). Clonidine, a pill or patch typically used to treat high blood pressure, may provide some relief from hot flashes. Side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth and constipation.
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- Menopausal symptoms and CAM: What the science says. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/menopause-science.htm. Accessed April 15, 2011.