Hormonal Treatments for Hot Flash Relief
Though medical science continues to study the connection between hormone depletion and hot flashes, hormone therapy — involving estrogen and/or progesterone — is the most effective medical treatment for vasomotor symptoms known today. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 80 to 90 percent of women taking prescribed estrogen find relief from hot flashes.
While it's true that estrogen offers a number of other health benefits for women experiencing symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, including protection against osteoporosis and colorectal cancer, there are also risks in using it. It is not as commonly prescribed as it was in years past, and may be seen as a second choice solution, after you have tried some of the nonhormonal remedies. You and your health care provider can decide if your menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, are worth the risk of using estrogen therapy. Your personal and family health history can help you make a decision about using hormone therapy, and your health provider can help you sort it all out.
Estrogen is not recommended for women with a personal history of recently diagnosed endometrial cancer. For these women, progestins — such as medroxyprogesterone or megestrol acetate — have been shown to offer relief from hot flashes. Some studies have shown progestins to decrease hot flashes by as much as 70 to 90 percent.
Estrogen is a highly effective tool for combating symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause, but it's not suitable for all women. See Chapter 11 for more information about the benefits and potential risks of hormone therapies.
Another hormone-based treatment for hot flashes is progesterone cream. This cream, available by prescription, is rubbed on the skin, and the progesterone is slowly absorbed into the woman's system. Though some studies have shown that progesterone cream can offer significant relief from hot flashes, it can be accompanied by some negative side effects, including vaginal bleeding and PMS symptoms.
Again, your doctor or health care professional can help you decide whether or not hormone-based treatments are your best choice for reducing or eliminating hot flashes. If together you decide that hormones aren't right for you, you can choose from other treatment options, including other medications and hormone alternatives, discussed in the sections that follow.