Friday, 27 June 2014

Antidepressants: May Offer An Alternative Treatment For Menopause Symptoms

STUART — Hot flashes, night sweats, tiredness, irritability, loss of libido. These are just a few of the symptoms experienced by women during menopause. While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) offers a successful treatment for many of these ailments, it also comes with some risks. And while its benefits may be promising, some women are unwilling -- or unable because of pre-existing medical conditions -- to take HRT. Antidepressants offer an increasingly popular, non-hormonal menopause treatment method.

About menopause and HRT

A normal part of aging, menopause comprises the period just before and after a woman stops menstruating. While not all women experience symptoms during menopause, many do. Until recently, HRT -- the prevalent method of treatment, which involves supplementing the body with estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone -- was heralded for both its effect on menopause and its symptoms, as well as in the prevention of osteoporosis.

However, researchers have recently started to question the benefits of HRT against the risks, which may include increased risk of endometrial cancer, breast cancer, blood clots and stroke. Furthermore, research from the Women's Health Initiative has even linked estrogen-progestin combination therapy to higher risk of heart disease.

For some women, HRT is not even an option; it is not recommended for women who have had breast cancer, endometrial cancer, abnormal vaginal bleeding, blood clots, history of stroke or liver disease. For these women, antidepressants offer an alternate form of relief.

An alternative to HRT

Whether or not you suffer from depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may reduce or completely stop hot flashes during menopause. First observed as a side effect and since backed up by research trials, antidepressants including fluoxetine, paroxetine, citalopram and escitalopram have each offered relief from hot flashes to some menopausal women. Additionally, a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) called venlafaxine has demonstrated similar effects.

Not only do SSRIs and SNRIs offer non-hormonal relief for hot flashes, it happens almost immediately -- within one to two weeks of beginning treatment. While research hasn’t yet determine how these medicines relieve hot flashes, for many women the promise of HRT-free relief is enough. Of course, antidepressants come with their own range of side effects, including nausea and decreased sex drive.

While both HRT and antidepressant therapies methods are effective, each offers different advantages. Your family physician can help you understand your options in order to determine your optimal treatment method. Spread this helpful message with friends, family and members of your community to promote awareness about alternatives to HRT.


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