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Management of Menopausal SymptomsA Review

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Importance  Menopause, due to loss of ovarian follicular activity without another pathological or physiological cause, typically occurs between the ages of 45 years and 56 years. During the menopausal transition, approximately 50% to 75% of women have hot flashes, night sweats, or both (vasomotor symptoms) and more than 50% have genitourinary symptoms (genitourinary syndrome of menopause [GSM]).

Observations  Vasomotor symptoms typically last more than 7 years and GSM is often chronic. Efficacious treatments for women with bothersome vasomotor symptoms or GSM symptoms include hormonal and nonhormonal options. Systemic estrogen alone or combined with a progestogen reduces the frequency of vasomotor symptoms by approximately 75%. Oral and transdermal estrogen have similar efficacy. Conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) with or without medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) were the only hormonal treatments for which clinical trials were designed to examine cardiovascular events, venous thromboembolism, and breast cancer risk. Compared with placebo, the increased risk of stroke and venous thromboembolism associated with CEE (with or without MPA) and breast cancer (with use of CEE plus MPA) is approximately 1 excess event/1000 person-years. Low-dose CEE plus bazedoxifene is not associated with increased risk of breast cancer (0.25%/year vs 0.23%/year with placebo). Bioidentical estrogens approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (with identical chemical structure to naturally produced estrogens, and often administered transdermally) also are available to treat vasomotor symptoms. For women who are not candidates for hormonal treatments, nonhormonal approaches such as citalopram, desvenlafaxine, escitalopram, gabapentin, paroxetine, and venlafaxine are available and are associated with a reduction in frequency of vasomotor symptoms by approximately 40% to 65%. Low-dose vaginal estrogen is associated with subjective improvement in GSM symptom severity by approximately 60% to 80%, with improvement in severity by 40% to 80% for vaginal prasterone, and with improvement in severity by 30% to 50% for oral ospemifene.

Conclusions and Relevance  During the menopausal transition, approximately 50% to 75% of women have vasomotor symptoms and GSM symptoms. Hormonal therapy with estrogen is the first-line therapy for bothersome vasomotor symptoms and GSM symptoms, but nonhormonal medications (such as paroxetine and venlafaxine) also can be effective. Hormone therapy is not indicated for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Carolyn J. Crandall, MD, MS, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, 1100 Glendon Ave, Ste 850, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (ccrandall@mednet.ucla.edu).

Accepted for Publication: December 18, 2022.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Manson reported receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health. No other disclosures were reported.

Disclaimer: Dr Crandall was an Associate Editor for JAMA, but she was not involved in any of the decisions regarding review of the manuscript or its acceptance.

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AMA CME Accreditation Information

Credit Designation Statement: The American Medical Association designates this Journal-based CME activity activity for a maximum of 1.00  AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Successful completion of this CME activity, which includes participation in the evaluation component, enables the participant to earn up to:

  • 1.00 Medical Knowledge MOC points in the American Board of Internal Medicine's (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program;;
  • 1.00 Self-Assessment points in the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery’s (ABOHNS) Continuing Certification program;
  • 1.00 MOC points in the American Board of Pediatrics’ (ABP) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program;
  • 1.00 Lifelong Learning points in the American Board of Pathology’s (ABPath) Continuing Certification program; and
  • 1.00 CME points in the American Board of Surgery’s (ABS) Continuing Certification program

It is the CME activity provider's responsibility to submit participant completion information to ACCME for the purpose of granting MOC credit.

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