Treatment for normal menopause has been somewhat controversial. While symptoms of menopause will naturally diminish over time, there are coping strategies that may be considered to relieve and manage some of the most bothersome ones. Lifestyle changes, including eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and stopping smoking, may be helpful. Avoiding certain spicy foods, coffee, or tea may minimize the effects of hot flashes. There are claims that over-the-counter products such as black cohosh, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), dong quai, evening primrose, ginseng, and St. John's wort may offer some relief, but as such, are not regulated by the FDA nor have been shown to be medically effective. Further, use of such products may actually be more harmful by exacerbating the symptoms or interfering with other medications. Women should discuss this with their health care practitioner before taking such supplements.
Women with severe symptoms and those with menopause due to surgery or another non-age-related cause may choose hormone replacement therapy (HRT; also called menopausal hormone therapy or MHT) to minimize accompanying symptoms. Depending on a woman's medical history and preferences, HRT involves taking oral doses of estrogen or using transdermal patches or creams and, for a woman with a uterus (no hysterectomy), oral doses of progesterone. Risks that have been associated with HRT include blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), breast cancer, uterine/endometrial cancer, and heart disease. Estrogen taken alone slightly increases the risk for endometrial cancer, thus is often taken with a progestin, greatly reducing the risk. For more information about HRT, visit the Hormone Health Network web site. Women should discuss their symptoms, coping strategies, and treatment options with their health care practitioner to make the choices that are right for them.