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Alternatives to estrogen for the treatment of hot flashes.


Lucero MA, McCloskey WW




Ann Pharmacother


Postmenopausal women experiencing hot flashes in whom estrogen replacement is contraindicated have alternatives available to them; however, there is no clearly defined treatment modality. The literature addressing many of these alternatives has serious limitations, which include the small number of women enrolled and lack of comparative studies between agents. Each patient needs to be assessed in terms of her current medical status, concomitant medications, and the degree to which vasomotor instability interferes with everyday activities. The literature suggests that megestrol acetate 20 mg bid may provide significant relief. Women who opt to use megestrol acetate must be told in advance that the effects will not be felt immediately particularly if tamoxifen is used concomitantly. Clonidine and medroxyprogesterone may constitute potential alternatives, but patients may not be able to tolerate the adverse effects. Because of the lack of literature supporting their clinical use, options such as vitamin E and ginseng need to be approached cautiously. Exercise has a role in alleviating some of the complications associated with menopause, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, but its effect on neurotransmitters and hormone concentrations, and how this relates to the treatment of hot flashes have not been characterized. Patients should be told that regular physical activity, a balanced diet, avoidance of alcohol and caffeine, and stress reduction may be of additional help in decreasing vasomotor flushing.

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