Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health Trials

With relatively little research focused on health concerns unique to women in midlife, MsFLASH studies are focused on treating bothersome symptoms of menopause and helping doctors develop better ways to treat women as they transition through this stage. The goal of our studies is to improve quality of life and health of women.

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Since 2008, our network has completed five clinical trials involving 1300 women between the ages of 40 and 70. We’ve tested nine interventions to treat hot flashes, sleep problems and other menopausal symptoms.

The MsFLASH Network

MsFLASH conducted a series of studies with network partners across the United States. From Seattle to Boston, experts in women’s health conducted research at world-renowned institutions and shared their findings to improve quality of life for menopausal women.

Study Findings

Our researchers conducted a variety of studies, investigating treatments for hot flashes, insomnia and sexual function related to menopause. Studies included hormonal, medicinal, non-medicinal and counseling treatments.

Can an anti-depressant reduce menopausal hot flashes?

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Researchers studied the effects of escitalopram (Lexipro) on hot flashes, insomnia and sexual difficulties related to menopause, compared with placebo.

  • Among healthy women, 10-20 mg a day of escitalopram reduced the intensity and frequency of both day and night hot flashes.
  • It reduced insomnia symptoms and improved subjective sleep quality scores.
  • While the drug did adversely affect sexual lubrication among a small percentage of sexually active women, it significantly improved menopause-related quality of life and pain among healthy women with hot flashes.
  • Approximately one third of women whose hot flashes decreased with escitalopram relapsed swiftly after discontinuing the medication.

And because recent studies suggested SSRI medications may be associated with increased fracture risk and bone loss, we also assessed the impact of escitalopram on bone metabolism. Our results suggest that escitalopram does not lead to bone loss in the short term.

Can non-hormonal treatments reduce hot flashes?

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Our researchers assessed whether yoga, exercise, or omega-3 supplements could reduce menopause-related hot flashes. This study found that none of these treatments provided significant improvement in alleviating hot flashes. However, both moderate-intensity workouts and yoga had a positive effect on insomnia symptoms. Exercise also reduced depressive symptoms and yoga improved overall quality of life. Omega-3 supplements showed no effect on hot flashes, sleep or mood.

Does a non-hormonal treatment (anti-depressant) help as much as low-dose Estradiol for reducing hot flashes?

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While estrogen (estradiol) is the gold standard for treating the symptoms of menopause, hormone therapy has associated risks for some women. Our scientists evaluated the efficacy of venlafaxine, a non-hormonal anti-depressant, and low-dose estradiol to determine whether the former is a viable option for women who can’t tolerate hormone therapy.

We found that both estradiol and venlafaxine are effective in decreasing hot flashes and improving menopause-related quality of life, compared to placebo. They modestly reduced insomnia symptoms and improved subjective sleep quality. And while overall sexual function among non-depressed women experiencing hot flashes did not change with either therapy, a small increase in desire (with estradiol) and decreases in orgasm and pain (with venlafaxine) may exist.

Can telephone-based cognitive behavioral therapy be used to improve menopausal insomnia symptoms?

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Researchers tested the efficacy of telephone-based cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in treating sleep problems in healthy perimenopausal and postmenopausal women with bothersome hot flashes. After an 8-week course, women who received therapy saw reduced insomnia symptoms and improved subjective sleep quality compared to the menopause education control group.

How do a vaginal estradiol and a vaginal moisturizer compare for diminishing postmenopausal vaginal symptoms?

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Many otherwise healthy postmenopausal women experience bothersome vulvovaginal symptoms such as itching, pain, dryness or pain with sexual penetration. Researchers tested the efficacy of both low-dose vaginal estradiol tablets and over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer in treating these symptoms. They found that, compared to placebo, neither treatment provided benefit in reducing these symptoms.

Our Sponsors

The MsFLASH network is made possible through funding from the National Institutes of Health. We’ve received funding from the following NIH divisions:

 

Information on Menopause

The National Institute on Aging is a part of the National Institute of Health. They offer a wealth of information to help you determine if you’re experiencing menopause, tips to deal with menopausal symptoms, and links to additional resources.

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the health and quality of life of all women during midlife and beyond. They provide access to menopause information, specialists, and more.

 

Resources on Aging

The Administration on Aging covers hundreds of topics of interest to seniors, including caregiver support programs, information for older people and their families, statistics, links to state and area agencies on aging and many publications. Through its “Eldercare Locator,” the agency can help you find local support resources in your community, including transportation, meals, social activities, legal services, home care, caregiver services and home repair.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a non-profit organization for people 50 years and older. They provide information and resources, assist members to serve their communities and offer a range of information.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCoA) is membership-based organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for Latino elderly, families, and communities through advocacy, education and research.

The National Caucus and Center on the Black Aged improves the quality of life for elderly African Americans and low-income minorities.

The National Indian Council on Aging provides comprehensive services for Native American and Alaska Native Elders.

The National Pacific/Asian Resource Center on Aging is dedicated to serving aging Asian and Pacific Islanders.

Contact Us

Sheri Greaves

Research Administrator

Katherine A. Guthrie

Principal Investigator