Alastair H MacLennan
Background and Objective: The highest level of scientific evidence available for each therapy for menopausal symptoms was sought, for example, systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
Results: There is reasonable evidence that some symptoms are modified by lifestyle, for example, cessation of smoking, exercise, reduction of alcohol, diet and alleviation of psychosocial stress.
No complementary medicine, for example, phytoestrogens, black cohosh, herbal or homeopathic medicines or complementary therapies, for example, acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic manipulation, reflexology or magnetic devices have a greater effect than the usual placebo effect seen in quality blinded RCTs. Some have potential side-effects. So-called ‘bioidentical hormones' have no evidence-base and potential for harm. None of the above therapies have evidence of efficacy and long-term safety.
Selective serotonin and noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors ameliorate vasomotor symptoms and sometimes menopausal depression better than placebo.
The most effective therapy for menopausal (oestrogen) deficiency symptoms is oestrogen which is the main component of hormone replacement therapies (HRT). Compared with placebo HRT is highly effective in relieving hot flushes, night sweats, dry vagina and dyspareunia. It also improved joint pains, sexuality and sleeplessness and reduced subsequent fractures in RCTs. The increased risk of oral HRT for thromboembolism is small around menopause, for those without thrombotic risk factors, and is not elevated with non-oral routes. Cardiovascular disease may be reduced when HRT is initiated near menopause. Breast cancer risk increases after several years with the use of oral HRT containing progestogens at an annual rate of 8/10 000 (<0.1%). No increase in breast cancer risk was seen with oestrogen-only HRT.
Int J Evid Based Healthc 2009; 7:112-123
Content Updated 15 June 2009