Researchers said that apart from hormones certain antidepressants and other medicines may help overcome women suffering from hot flashes. But the bad news is that those medicines have side effects. Long term use results in various side effects and they do not work as well as hormones. Hence nonhormonal drugs are not optimal choices for most women. The findings of the study were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Hence the only way out would be sipping ice water, dress in layers and turn up the air conditioning.
Statistics show that about 50 % of women have hot flashes during menopause and that 20 % of those affected seek treatment. Hot flashes are a sudden sensation of being overheated, with sweating and facial flushing. It can occur during any time of the day and can disrupt sleep and persist for years, sometimes even decades. Hormones which were initially prescribed fell from grace when a study showed that it increased the risk of blood clots, strokes, heart attacks and breast cancer. The new report, by doctors from Oregon Health and Science University, is based on a review of 43 studies of various nonhormonal treatments for hot flashes.
The treatments include drugs that were originally approved for other purpose such as antidepressants Paxil (paroxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), Prozac (fluoxetine) and Celexa (citalopram), the blood pressure drug Catapres (clonidine), and the seizure drug Neurontin (gabapentin). The drugs eased symptoms of menopause and were suggested by women who were taking them for other reasons. They told doctors the drugs seemed to decrease their hot flashes. Researchers also examined studies of nonprescription extracts from soy and red clover, which contain plant estrogens called isoflavones and are marketed as a natural treatment for hot flashes. But none of these drugs or extracts is approved by the food and drug administration to treat hot flashes. Among the antidepressants, Paxil seemed to have the strongest evidence of benefit but it had side effects such as headache, nausea, insomnia or drowsiness.
The side effects were more likely to occur with higher doses. Dr. Heidi Nelson, the director of the study, an internist and a professor at the Oregon Health and Science University said that there were little reliable data on the effectiveness and long-term safety of using the drugs for hot flashes. In conclusion she said that bigger studies are to be conducted to find about the effectiveness of the drug. Dr. Jeffrey Tice, an internist at the University of California, San Francisco, said that the drugs should not be used long term. He said that patients should try the drugs for a few months and then try to stop, and keep trying every few months.