Hot flashes fade with antidepressant use

Hot flashes are difficult to treat. Hormone therapy works well, but many women are reluctant to take hormones because of concerns about the side effects of long-term use. Natural remedies are safer, but several studies show they help little, if at all.

Antidepressants may benefit some women, however. In a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., researchers assigned women who were experiencing hot flashes to take a daily dose of the antidepressant Lexapro or a placebo. In the women taking the antidepressant, hot flashes decreased from 9.8 per day to 5.26. The women taking the placebo experienced a decline in hot flashes as well but not as great: from 9.8 to 6.43 per day. The antidepressant users also reported hot flashes that were less severe.

Both white and African American women experienced relief from the hot flashes, which was a significant finding because black women tend to have more hot flashes. And the treatment worked regardless of whether individual women were experiencing depression or anxiety.

Previous studies on whether antidepressants help with hot flashes have produced mixed results. So this study provides a little more proof that antidepressants may be worth a try. There is no approved prescription remedy specifically for hot flashes, although the condition impairs the quality of life of millions of women.

Related: Rough transition into menopause

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