TUESDAY 24 Jan. 2023 (HealthDay News) — For women experiencing menopausal symptoms without any sign of relief in sight, it doesn’t have to be.
A women’s health expert offers some suggestions for managing symptoms during this time of life when the menstrual cycle ends.
“We sometimes hear the question, ‘Should I treat hot flashes or night sweats?’ and the answer for many may be ‘yes.’ Because hot flashes and night sweats affect quality of life and productivity at work and at home for women,” said Dr. Jewel Kling, chair of the women’s health division at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Other common symptoms include insomnia and mood swings.
One treatment is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This usually includes estrogen plus progestin, according to a Mayo Clinic press release.
According to recent guidelines from the North American Menopause Society, the benefit of HRT for women under the age of 60 or within 10 years of their last period outweighs the risk in healthy women with postmenopausal symptoms.
“Many factors influence a woman’s decision whether or not to use hormones and, if she does, what regimen is best for relieving her symptoms. Common factors considered include age, underlying health, symptom severity, preferences, available treatment options, and of course, cost considerations. An important consideration is whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks,” Kling said.
“Along with these benefits comes improvement with symptoms associated with menopause, including the most likely bothersome ones, including disrupted sleep, mood problems and decreased sexual satisfaction,” added Kling. “Addressing these symptoms can lead to a better quality of life.”
Still, risks include blood clots in the legs and lungs, as well as stroke, especially when the HRT is taken as a pill.
“A stroke depends on the age at which a woman starts hormone therapy. In particular, the risks are low for women under age 60 or within 10 years of their last menstrual period,” Kling said. “There don’t seem to be the same risks associated with transdermal estrogen products like patches, especially when we use lower doses.”
Other forms of treatment are gels and sprays.
While the risk of using estrogen alone may put you at risk for uterine cancer, that risk can be reduced by using progestin or an estrogen-selective estrogen receptor modulator combination, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Breast cancer is another risk that seems slightly higher with HRT, especially in women with a uterus taking estrogen plus a progestogen.
“In general, however, the risk of serious events with hormone therapy is rare,” Kling said. “For women with only vaginal symptoms, a low dose of vaginal estrogen can be used. Low-dose vaginal estrogen does not have the same risks as systemic therapy because the body absorbs very little.”
Some women have fewer options, including women with breast cancer, blood clot problems, or other hormone-influenced cancers.
For those women, non-hormonal therapies may help.
Losing weight can help reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
A low dose of paroxetine (Paxil) may help some women with symptoms such as hot flashes. It does not appear to cause weight gain or adverse sexual effects at low doses.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, clinical hypnosis, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation may also help.
“There are many ways to help women cope with the discomfort and decreased quality of life associated with menopause,” Kling said. “Women don’t just have to fight it out. They can get help.”
The US National Institute on Aging has more on menopause.
SOURCE: Mayo Clinic press release, January 19, 2023
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