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- Treatment Overview
Menopause Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- Mild to moderate symptoms can often be treated at home.
- Vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and sleep problems can often be treated with OTC remedies, herbal supplements, and lifestyle changes.
When you may need a provider
- Moderate to severe symptoms
- You have mood changes like depression, or your symptoms interfere with your daily life.
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When to see a healthcare provider
You should see a healthcare provider if your menopause symptoms are severe, if you have mood changes like depression, or if your symptoms interfere with your daily life.
A doctor can confirm you’re in menopause and may discuss prescription medications like hormone replacement therapy (HRT), vaginal estrogen for dryness, and antidepressants. They may also recommend alternative therapies like acupuncture.
Is there a test for menopause?
The definition of menopause is not having your period for 12 consecutive months. But many women have menopausal symptoms before, during, and after the 12 months.
Since menopause symptoms are similar to symptoms of an underactive thyroid, your doctor may order blood tests to check your levels of thyroid stimulating hormone.
While there are OTC tests that measure your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (TSH), which increases as you reach menopause, they aren’t very reliable. In certain cases, your doctor may order blood tests to measure your estrogen levels.
What to expect from your doctor visit
- Your doctor may recommend oral HRT to relieve your symptoms. If so, they’ll discuss your personal risks and the benefits of taking HRT.
- Prescription hormones can also be used vaginally to treat vaginal dryness and pain during sex.
- Non-hormone medications like antidepressants (SSRIs and non-SSRIs) have been shown to help menopause symptoms.
- Acupuncture helps symptoms for some women. This alternative treatment uses thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body to change how the body reacts.
Prescription menopause medications
- Oral HRT: estradiol (Estrace), medroxyprogesterone (Provera), estradiol/norgestimate (Prefest)
- Vaginal hormone therapy: estradiol (Estrace), estropipate (Ogen), conjugated estrogens (Premarin), estradiol acetate (Femring)
- SSRI antidepressants: citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft)
- Non-SSRI antidepressants: venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
Types of menopause providers
- A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
- An obstetrician-gynecologist (ob/gyn) is a doctor who specializes in women’s health.
How to treat menopause at home
If your menopause symptoms are mild or moderate, you may be able to treat them at home. The treatments are focused on the individual symptoms, like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, fatigue, and mood changes.
- OTC remedies like vaginal moisturizers, lubricants, and vaginal dilators can relieve vaginal dryness and tightness.
- Some people’s menopause symtoms are helped by natural remedies (flaxseed, black cohosh), but evidence is limited. Talk to your doctor before trying supplements to make sure they’re safe for you to take.
- Melatonin may improve your sleep.
- Sleeping on cooling sheets can reduce night sweats.
- Relaxation techniques and exercise can lessen symptoms.
- Limit hot flash triggers like alcohol.
You should see a healthcare provider if your menopause symptoms are severe, you have mood changes like depression, or your symptoms interfere with your daily life.
OTC treatments for menopause
- Vaginal moisturizers, such as Replens, Vagisil ProHydrate, and K-Y Liquidbeads, are used 2–3 times a week (not just during sex) to keep vaginal tissue moist.
- Lubricants, such as K-Y Jelly, Astroglide, and Sliquid, reduce irritation and pain during sex
- Melatonin helps you fall asleep
- Natural menopause remedies like flaxseed, black cohosh, and soy, or products like Estroven, which contain a combination of herbs
How can I manage menopause at home?
- To treat vaginal dryness and tightness, use lubricants and vaginal moisturizers.
- Vaginal dilators, which are silicone devices inserted into the vagina, can gently stretch vaginal tissue and reduce narrowing.
- Reduce the intensity of hot flashes by dressing in layers. When a hot flash starts, remove a layer or two, as needed, to feel more comfortable.
- Try to identify your triggers for hot flashes. For some women, they’re linked to stress or alcohol. If you limit these triggers, you may notice fewer and less intense hot flashes.
- A combination of strategies can help with night sweats, like sleeping on cooling sheets and pillows, wearing light clothing, and using a fan or opening windows.
- If you are still having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, you can take an OTC sleep medication, like diphenhydramine or doxylamine (Sleep Eze, Sominex, Nytol, ZzzQuil, Unisom), but these should only be used occasionally.
- Relaxation techniques and exercise may help symptoms like stress, concentration issues, mood swings, and weight gain.
- Vaginal dilators are silicone devices inserted into the vagina to gently stretch vaginal tissue and reduce narrowing.
- Stop smoking if you smoke. Smoking can worsen symptoms.