Published on November 01, 2018

Too Hot to Handle

Love it or hate it, menopause is a normal part of aging. It comes with a laundry list of unpleasant symptoms, with hot flashes and hijacked hormones at the top. Let’s talk treatment.

The Whole Shebangwoman putting face in front of fan

When the time comes, you’ll likely move through three different phases.

  • Perimenopause: The word means menopause transition, and it typically starts in your 40s. Signs of perimenopause include unpredictable monthly cycles, crazy hormones, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and heavy menstrual bleeding. You may also get “brain fog,” or changes in memory, and put on a few pounds.
  • Menopause: If you’ve missed your period for 12 straight months and you’re age 45-55 (average age is 51), it’s likely you’ve reached menopause. Your ovaries no longer release eggs, and for the next year or so, your estrogen levels will drop. While this lowers your risk for certain types of cancer, it also increases your risk for osteoporosis, a lower sex drive, drier and more wrinkle-prone skin, and tooth loss and gum disease.
  • Postmenopause: You’ll be relieved to know that in the postmenopausal years, the hot flashes and night sweats go away and your energy returns. However, the risk for developing osteoporosis, heart disease and other serious health conditions remains high. Having an annual wellness checkup is as important as ever.

Your Treatment Options

Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes, all it takes to find relief is a few tweaks such as:

  • Drinking cool liquids
  • Keeping a fan at your work desk and bedside
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Losing weight
  • Lowering the air temperature
  • Quitting smoking
  • Using a frozen gel pack for a pillow
  • Wearing layered, breathable clothing

Medication

If you’ve tried all of the above, but still struggle with life-disrupting symptoms, your doctor may recommend medication.

Hormone replacement therapy, better known as HRT, is a common treatment option. Your doctor may prescribe estrogen only or a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen comes in creams, patches, pills, lotions and vaginal rings. HRT comes with risks, and it isn’t for everyone. When talking with your doctor about the pros and cons, make sure to share your complete medical history. Having the big picture will help your doctor help you weigh the risks and benefits.

If HRT isn’t an option, take heart. Other medications, such as Brisdelle and Paroxetine, may help manage your symptoms, especially hot flashes. Similar to HRT, these medications aren’t for everyone. For example, if you take Tamoxifen to treat breast cancer, you can’t Brisdelle because it could decrease the effectiveness of Tamoxifen.

That said, if you do take Tamoxifen, medications such as clonidine, citalopram, escitalopram, venlafaxine and gabapentin are safe and may bring you some hot flash relief.

While you can’t avoid menopause, you don’t have to suffer. Talk with your gynecologist or primary care doctor about the best way to find sweet relief when your menopause symptoms become too hot to handle.

Related Reading

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Menopause Basics