The most effective treatment for hot flashes is estrogen, but taking this hormone can increase your risk of developing other health problems. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs also may help reduce hot flashes.
Discuss the pros and cons of various treatments with your doctor. If hot flashes don't interfere with your life, you may not need treatment. 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 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are to use the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time needed to relieve symptoms.
A combination drug of bazedoxifene with conjugated estrogens (Duavee) has been approved for treatment of menopausal symptoms. This drug may avoid the increased risk of cancer, but more study is needed.
Estrogen therapy is not a good option if you've ever had a blood clot or breast cancer.
Low doses of certain antidepressants may decrease hot flashes. Examples include:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR, Pristiq)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
These medications aren't as effective as hormone therapy for severe hot flashes, but they can be helpful to women who can't use hormones. Possible side effects include nausea, dizziness, weight gain, dry mouth or sexual dysfunction.
Other prescription medications
Other medications that may offer relief for some women include:
May 16, 2014
- Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise). Gabapentin is an anti-seizure medication that's moderately effective in reducing hot flashes. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness and headaches.
- Clonidine (Catapres, 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.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins — Gynecology. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 141: Management of menopausal symptoms. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2014;123:202.
- Casper RF. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of menopause. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Frequently asked questions. Women's health FAQ047. Menopause. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq047.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140312T1457400846. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Get the facts: Menopausal symptoms and complementary health practices. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/menopause/menopausesymptoms. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Elkins GR, et al. Clinical hypnosis in the treatment of postmenopausal hot flashes: A randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 2013;20:1.
- Casper RF, et al. Menopausal hot flashes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- AskMayoExpert. Hot flash management using alternatives to estrogen. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Pachman DR, et al. Management of menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms: Current treatment options, challenges and future directions. International Journal of Women's Health. 2010;2:123.