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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2003 Sep;26(3):563-80.

Assessment and treatment of hot flushes and menopausal mood disturbance.

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Department of Psychiatry, Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry Clinical Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 15 Parkman Street, WACC, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


More than 1 million women are expected to reach menopause each year, many of whom will experience hot flushes and other neuropsychological symptoms that may diminish their quality of life. Hot flushes are the core symptoms that reflect the brain's response to the changing hormonal milieu of the menopause transition, particularly to the rapidly fluctuating and falling levels of estradiol. The physical symptoms of hot flushes and the associated changes in sleep, mood, and cognition will lead many women to seek medical care. It is critical to understand the interrelationship of hot flushes and other neuropsychological symptoms of the menopause transition so that treatment priorities can be established. For example, if sleep disruption explains most daytime neuropsychological problems in women with hot flushes, treating insomnia should be considered a priority. Alternatively, mood, cognition, and quality of life may be disturbed independent of sleep problems. In such a situation, each symptom should be evaluated separately from any assessment of sleep. As recent data from the WHI establish the risks of long-term HRT use, concern about using HRT, even as a short-term intervention, has increased substantially. Although HRT remains the first-line treatment for hot flushes, the WHI findings have drawn attention to nonhormonal treatments of hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms. Growing evidence to support the efficacy of serotonergic antidepressants and other psychoactive medications in the treatment for hot flushes suggests that nonhormonal interventions will prove important alternatives to HRT. As further evidence of the benefits of psychoactive medications for menopausal symptoms is established, the choice between using hormonal and nonhormonal therapies for management of menopausal symptoms will continue to evolve.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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