Hormone therapy may help only women bothered with hot flashes

Despite the common perception that postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT) improves quality of life in women, a new study finds it only works if they are bothered by hot flashes.

The study found, HT did not yield any noteworthy benefits pertaining to the quality of life, such as sleep improvement, memory among others as opposed to a placebo in women without severe hot flashes.

“There has been a long debate over this issue. This new, well-designed study puts forth good evidence that hormone therapy does not improve quality of life in recently menopausal women who do not have numerous hot flashes,” said Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of The North American Menopause Society.

Study of 150 healthy postmenopausal women
The objective of the study was to evaluate whether HT had any noteworthy impact on quality of life in a selected group of postmenopausal women. Hanna Savolainen-Peltonen, MD, PhD, of the Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland and her team recruited 150 healthy women who had recently gone through menopause.

It was noted that 72 volunteers had seven or more hot flashes per day. They were “moderately” or “extremely” troubled by their symptoms. The remaining 78 experienced three or lesser mild hot flashes per day or no hot flashes at all. For the purpose of the trial, half the women in each group were assigned to various hormone therapies for a period of six while the other half got a placebo.

The subjects were questioned about their experiences with menopause symptoms, sexual health and general well being. In addition, they were asked to record the frequency and severity of their hot flashes.

Symptoms such as erratic sleep, stress, depression, anxiety, nervousness, joint or muscles pains, memory and focus, and problems linked to menstrual cycle such as abdominal bloating and breast tenderness, were also tracked.

Observations by researchers
An evaluation at the close of the study revealed HT conferred benefits to women with moderate to severe hot flashes. They were less bothered by insomnia, irritability, fatigue, mood swing, palpitations, nausea, swelling and vaginal dryness. However, HT bestowed no such advantages to women with mild or no mild flashes.

Findings of the study are published online in the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), Menopause.