Lexapro May Ease Menopausal Hot Flashes

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As many as 3 out of 4 women experience hot flashes as they go through menopause, however the current treatment – hormone therapy – is not an option for some women. Low doses of antidepressants such as Lexapro have been found to relieve the frequency and severity of symptoms in some women.

Antidepressant Decreased Severity and Frequency of Symptoms

Ellen Freeman and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania studied the use of Lexapro (generic name escitalopram) as an alternative treatment to hormonal therapy to treat menopause symptoms. Over 200 women were assigned to either a 10 to 20 milligram dose of the antidepressant or a placebo for an eight week trial between July 2009 and June 2010.

The participants, all of whom reported experiencing more than 28 hot flashes a week (average 9.78 per day) recorded the frequency and severity of symptoms in a personal diary. These were assessed by the researchers at weeks four and eight.

Read: Menopause Has Negative Effects on Women's Cholesterol

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For the women taking Lexapro, the frequency of hot flashes was lowered to around 5 per day in about 55% of the women, compared to 6.43 per day in the placebo group. Hot flash severity also decreased by 0.52 points on a three-point scale, versus 0.30 points in those taking the placebo.

While these differences may seem modest, it was statistically significant.

Read: Women Prescribed High Doses of Hormone Therapy Despite Known Risks

The researchers cautioned that the results of the study were not conclusive enough to recommend antidepressants as an alternative to hormonal therapy. Currently, HRT is the only approved treatment for hot flashes in menopausal women. However, a large study in 2002 found a link between HRT and the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and strokes in older women.

"We feel the data provide an option for treatment for hot flashes, in particular if women are risk for taking hormonal therapy because they have a history of cancer or for women who don't want to take hormone therapy," said Freeman in a telephone interview.

Source reference:
Freeman EW, et al "Efficacy of escitalopram for hot flashes in healthy menopausal women: a randomized controlled trial" JAMA 2011; 305: 267-274.

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