Demystifying the Change Part II - What About Less Invasive Options?

September 27, 2012
By Sarah Burton

To read Demystifying the Change Part I - What is Menopause? click here.

What About Less Invasive Options?
Not quite sure you need or want to go the hormone replacement therapy route? Dr. Howell points out several other ways to tackle the symptoms of menopause.

Nonhormonal Rx
Antidepressant medications such as Effexor, Pristiq, and Cymbalta can wield up to 60 percent improvement of hot flashes. The anti-seizure drug Gabapentin has also been reported to help up to 50 percent of hot flashes. Clonidine, an anti-hypertensive is also used. "I try these in patients who may not want hormones, or also have some of the conditions that these medications are more commonly used for," Howell says.

"We know there is a mind-body connection and that we feel better when we exercise. My favorite is yoga because it increases strength, flexibility, and balance which are all so important in the aging process. Yoga also helps with relaxation, which we can all benefit from, but it especially benefits perimenopausal woman with mood swings and insomnia."

Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health, but many of the additional benefits to vitamin D are still being discovered-despite living in the desert, so many people are deficient. Strong evidence supports the cardiovascular benefits to omega-3 fatty acids, but there may also be some improvement in hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Other supplements and treatments used for vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats) include black cohosh, red clover, vitamin C, vitamin E, soy, evening primrose oil, dong quai, ginseng, and acupuncture. Research has shown that most of these will give about a 30 percent improvement, but it's important to note that supplements can have side effects.

Sexual Complications
"For patients complaining of vaginal dryness who do not want a supplement or prescription, I have liked water-based lubricants in the past, but newer to the market are silicone-based lubricants that will last much longer," Dr. Howell suggests. A nonhormonal solution for patients with libido issues, vaginal dryness, and orgasmic dysfunction is EROS, a small hand-held FDA-approved device that provides suction to the clitoris and genital region increasing blood flow.

Interested in finding out more or scheduling an appointment?
Dr. Jennifer Howell, D.O., FACOOG
Ironwood OB/GYN
2300 N. Rosemont Boulevard

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