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Many women and, unfortunately, their doctors assume that the only treatment for menopausal discomforts is hormone therapy. Actually, a number of different medications are useful for the hot flashes, mood swings, and sleeping problems that can occur around menopause. Look into the following medication before taking HRT.
A high blood pressure medication called clonidine can reduce the severity and the frequency of hot flashes in some women. It is believed to work by suppressing hormone surges in the brain. Common side effects are dry mouth and fatigue, but clonidine can be a particularly convenient treatment for women who need medication for their blood pressure, anyway. Another blood pressure medication, propranolol, is sometimes prescribed for menopausal women. It, too, can affect the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Propranolol, technically called a beta-blocker, controls the dilation of the blood vessels that can cause a flash.
Another commonly prescribed medication is called Bellergal. This drug is really a combination of three ingredients: phenobarbital, ergotamine, and belladonna. Together these ingredients produce a sedating effect on your nervous system, thus helping to stabilize your temperature and improve your sleep. Side effects include dry mouth and constipation. Unlike clonidine and propranolol, Bellergal cannot be used by women who have high blood pressure.
Antidepressants (such as fluoxetine, sertreline, paroxetine, lexapro) that raise serotonin levels can have a significant impact on hot flashes and may counteract the irritability that many women experience with menopause. And a drug called neurontin, used to treat seizure disorders and neuropathic pain, has been reported to reduce hot flashes.
Some other nonhormonal treatments, such as magnesium supplements and vitamins E and B, have been said to help, but there is not much evidence to confirm this yet. Black cohosh supplements and soy supplements have a modest impact on flushing in clinical trials. Many women find simply exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and ignoring menopause symptoms works well for them. The most important thing is to explore the alternatives. Not all women can or should take hormones. Most women can, at least, get their flashes down to a livable nuisance by nonhormonal means.
There are many more herbal and alternative treatments available for menopause. We'll investigate some of them in the next section.
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