Hot Flashes

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Bioidentical hormone therapy

There has been increasing interest in recent years in the use of so-called "bioidentical" hormone therapy for perimenopausal women. Bioidentical hormone preparations are medications that contain hormones that have the same chemical formula as those made naturally in the body. The hormones are created in a laboratory by altering compounds derived from naturally-occurring plant products. Some of these so-called bioidentical hormone preparations are U.S. FDA-approved and manufactured by drug companies, while others are made at special pharmacies called compounding pharmacies, which make the preparations on a case-by-case basis for each patient. These individual preparations are not regulated by the FDA, because compounded products are not standardized.

Advocates of bioidentical hormone therapy argue that the products, applied as creams or gels, are absorbed into the body in their active form without the need for "first pass" metabolism in the liver, and that their use may avoid potentially dangerous side effects of synthetic hormones used in conventional hormone therapy. However, studies to establish the long-term safety and effectiveness of these products have not been carried out.

Other drug treatments

  • The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications have been shown be effective in reducing menopausal hot flashes. These drugs are generally used in the treatment of depression and anxiety as well as other conditions A related drug (a selective norepinepherine reuptake inhibitor or SNRI) that has been tested most extensively in the treatment of hot flashes is venlafaxine (Effexor), although most SSRI drugs are effective as well. Paroxetine (Brisdelle) is an SSRI approved to treat moderate to severe hot flashes associated with menopause. A related drug (a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor or SNRI) that has been tested extensively in the treatment of hot flashes is venlafaxine (Effexor), although most SSRI drugs are effective as well.
  • Clonidine (Catapres) is an anti-hypertensive drug that can relieve hot flashes in some women. Clonidine is taken either by pill or skin patch and decreases blood pressure. Side effects of clonidine can include dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, or difficulty sleeping.
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin), a drug primarily used for the treatment of seizures, has also been effective in treating hot flashes.
  • Megestrol acetate (Megace) is a progestin that is sometimes prescribed over a short-term to help relieve hot flashes, but this drug is not usually recommended as a first-line treatment for hot flashes. Serious side effects can occur if the medication is abruptly discontinued. Megestrol may have the side effect of weight gain.
  • Medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo-Provera) is another progestin drug and is administered by injection to treat hot flashes. It may lead to weight gain as well as bone loss.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/21/2015

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