One of the most annoying reasons for developing hot flashes is menopause. While this does not affect all women in the same intensity, many suffer for many years because of this exasperating condition both in the daytime as well as when going to bed.
Taking estrogen to relieve oneself from hot flashes is not advised on a long-term basis, though it does provide immense relief. Women, who have developed breast cancer, cannot take antidepressants. Studies reveal that this hormonal therapy has proved to help hot flashes in more than 50 percent of the cases.
Latest research indicates that escitalopram, the brand name of which is “Lexapro” has proved to reduce hot flashes among older women quite successfully. Women, who complained of hot flashes, occurring almost 10 times a day, found that they brought it down to almost half when taking an antidepressant. Women, who were given a placebo, reduced the problem to 6.5 unlike those who were on this drug.
Ellen Freeman is a research professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is also the lead author of this study. She remarked that antidepressants were the only other option for people who did not want to risk hormone therapy, which was the only known way to reduce the problem of hot flashes. She noted that women, who took escitalopram for about eight weeks, showed signs of reduced hot flashes in a day with reduced signs of severity.
These results can be viewed in the 19th issue of the Journal of the America Medical Association, which is funded by the U.S National Institutes of Health.
There has been no other known treatment apart from hormone therapy that has been used for women who go through different stages of menopause. In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative did a study and found that taking hormonal therapy was not the ideal recourse as this did not guard against the side effects. However, they are now able to identify, which class of women should opt for hormonal therapy and those who should refrain from this course of action.
Dr. Judi Chervenak, who is a reproductive endocrinologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, suggests that low doses of hormonal therapy would help certain women who showed no adverse indications to the contrary and that too for a limited period of time. However, for those women, who could not use this therapy for any reason, they could opt for antidepressants and similar medication such as SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). The FDA (U.S Food and Drug Administration) for treating depression approves these depressants (SSRI). This drug is however prescribed “off-label” as non FDA–approved drugs to work as painkillers or to reduce hot flashes as studies indicate. The drugs that come under this group heading are Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and Zoloft.
The FDA claims there is nothing similar to Lexapro in the U.S. A daily dose of 20-milligram per day costs about $100 for a month and this can vary according to the dosage.
Nearly 205 women, whose ages ranged from 40 to 62, were put on trial. Some of them were post menopausal and some had just completed the transitional stage of menopause. The criteria for passing the test were that they had to have experienced not less than 28 hot flashes per week and that too provided they suffered with acute discomfort. Most women complained they had more than 28 per week and reported severe hot flashes.
During this trial period, women were randomly given about 10 to 20 milligrams of escitalopram daily for eight weeks and others were given placebo. Research concluded that about 55% of women, who took escitalopram reported that their hot flashes were reduced by nearly 50% with a drastic decrease in the severity. Those who were given placebo felt about 36% reductions in experiencing hot flashes. The women who took escitalopram also indicated that their hot flashes increased 1.5 more times when they stopped taking the medicine, as compared to women who were given placebo.
The side effects affected hardly about 4% of the women, who took escitalopram according to Ellen Freeman. She also added that it was not possible to determine why hot flashes occurred and how the medication helps to alleviate the symptoms.
Chervenak remarks that though escitalopram is an option women, who are prone to hot flashes, should be able to take better treatment, if available to reduce the symptoms. She also added that if women did not want to resort to taking medicines, they should keep a diary and find out what caused the hot flashes and write down the symptoms and severity each time. According to her, red wine could set off the hot flashes. Other foods and drinks could be caffeine, spice, chocolate or even stress.