Your Life, Your Health: Menopause
Updated: Monday, February 17 2014, 05:53 PM EST
For women suffering through symptoms of menopause, doctors say the first year is the worst. Some don’t suffer any symptoms at all, but 85% of women in North America do. This includes night sweats, fatigue, mood swings, vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
“Treating hot flashes is what usually brings women in.” Says Dr. Deborah Basso of St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy. An OB/GYN for Seton Health, she says hot flashes can last for 2 to 5 years. They can be treated with estrogen in the form of a pill, spray, patch of cream. “Estrogen has always been the gold standard.”
But staying on estrogen for longer periods of time increases the risk of blood clots and cancer.
Dr. Basso says there are alternatives for women who don’t or can’t take estrogen.
“Gabapentin which is a Neurontin. It is very effective and not hormonal. It is especially effective for night sweats if you take that at nighttime. Also, some of the new SSRI’s which are anti-depressants work well for treating menopausal symptoms.”
For that, Dr. Basso mentioned Celexa, Effexor and Lexapro among others. She says if vaginal dryness is an issue, women can use local estrogen, moisturizers or lubricants.
Some women take herbal remedies like Black Cohosh or Primrose oil to moderate symptoms. Dr. Basso says not a lot of studies have been done on these, but if they prove to be effective there is nothing wrong with using them.
“If it helps them and doesn’t hurt them, then I say okay.”
Another way to alleviate symptoms is to make lifestyle changes. In particular with hot flashes, try dressing in layers. Also, avoid triggers – alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine have been known to cause hot flashes in women.