COMMENTARY

'Alternative' Cures for Hot Flashes: Worthwhile, or a Waste?

Crystal M. Glassy, DO, MPH; Charles P. Vega, MD

Disclosures

March 27, 2014

In This Article

Seeking Relief of Vasomotor Symptoms in Menopause

Vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) secondary to changing estrogen levels during the transition to menopause are exceedingly common. Traditionally, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was considered to be a highly effective means to manage these symptoms. But then the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), the first prospective, multiyear clinical trial to evaluate the benefits and risks associated with HRT in menopausal women, reported their results. The WHI was stopped prematurely as a result of an increased risk for breast cancer, and some increases in risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and pulmonary embolism.[1] This study changed the culture of HRT prescribing practices to a more judicious approach that emphasized use of the lowest possible dose for the shortest time to avoid health-related complications.

The change in the prescribing paradigm has left many women hesitant to pursue HRT and instead look for alternative approaches that they perceive as being safer. Research indicates that many women use complementary and alternative medicine to manage menopausal symptoms; however, most do not share this information with their healthcare providers.[2] Up to 80% of women aged 45-60 years use nonprescription therapies for the management of vasomotor symptoms.[3]

A dichotomy exists between the amount of lay literature on alternative medicine that is available and the amount of discussion between healthcare professionals and their patients. It has been found that most women seek information from the media about alternative therapy for menopause.[4] This highlights the importance of healthcare providers appropriately addressing the use of nonpharmacologic therapies with their patients.

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