Menopause is a natural transition in life for women and, unfortunately, an extremely uncomfortable period of time. While some women experience only a few symptoms, other women have multiple symptoms that can affect their daily life.
It’s not easy to concentrate when you are having a hot flash that literally makes you sweat so much you lose your train of thought. Some women have night sweats so badly their sheets get soaked on a nightly basis. These types of conditions make life very unpleasant.
Fortunately, there are both medical and non-medical options for treating menopause. Continue reading to learn more about each symptom, and options you can explore for treating them.
Meditative breathing exercises (paced respiration) have been shown to reduce hot flashes and emotional symptoms. Medicines that can improve hot flashes include short-term, low-dose hormone therapy, antidepressants, the high blood pressure medicine clonidine, and the anti-seizure medicine gabapentin (Neurontin).
The hormone progestin can help relieve heavy menstrual bleeding caused by very low or very high progesterone levels (after you have an exam to rule out other possible causes). Other options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the levonorgestrel (LNg) IUD, or birth control pills.
For severe blood loss, some women choose permanent surgical treatment. These options include removing the uterus (hysterectomy) or using heat energy to damage and scar the wall of the uterus (endometrial ablation).
Vaginal Dryness and Irritation
A vaginal lubricant can help with dryness. Low-dose vaginal estrogen can help if your symptoms are thin skin, dryness, and/or irritation. Less estrogen is absorbed into your system with vaginal use, so the risks associated with ERT are less likely.
Multiple or Severe Symptoms
Hormone therapy can relieve multiple or difficult menopause symptoms. For symptom relief before menopause, low-dose estrogen-progestin birth control pills or low-dose HRT (estrogen-progestin) can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and other symptoms. After menopause, low-dose HRT is an option.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is an alternative to HRT. But it has not been well studied. The hormones are made in a laboratory from wild yams or soy. BHRT is thought to be more similar to human-produced hormones than synthetic HRT is. (Well-designed studies have not yet proved this theory.)
Other Treatment Options
Many doctors now suggest trying non-hormonal treatment for bothersome menopause symptoms before considering hormone therapy (birth control pills, estrogen alone [ERT], or estrogen-progestin [HRT]). There are several non-hormonal prescription treatments that can relieve or reduce hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.
Because of concern about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) health risks, many women have turned to alternative medicine for menopause symptom relief.
Yoga (which often includes meditative breathing) and/or biofeedback give you tools you can use to reduce stress. High stress is likely to make your symptoms worse.
There are a good number of alternative treatments for menopause symptoms. There are also some that should be avoided.
Alternative Treatments to Avoid
Based on the latest research, some therapies are not recommended for menopause symptoms, either because they are not effective or because they can cause dangerous effects. These include: kava, evening primrose, dong quai, valerian, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and angelica. Wild yam or natural progesterone creams.
These types of medicinals are not required to have the same testing or purity standards as prescription and other non-prescription medicines. The amount of a drug in herbal preparations varies widely. It is also possible for non-regulated products to be contaminated with metals or other dangerous substances.
Before trying any treatment, look for scientific studies that support its beneficial claims as well as information on risks. For example, when buying herbs or supplements, you should make sure to use a reputable brand or supplier.
Look for the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)-verified mark on product labels. This is one way of finding a product that has been tested for safety and quality.
If you are using an alternative medicine or herbal remedy, make sure your doctor knows.
To discuss menopause treatment options further, please contact us. All About Women’s Gainesville and Lake City locations offer our patients treatment and symptom relief in a compassionate environment.
For further information about menopause, visit our Knowledge Center article: Recognizing the Signs of Menopause.