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HRT Alternatives | Effexor

From the Menopause and Hormones Articles List

How does Effexor<br />
 work as an HRT alternative?
My primary care doctor has suggested the antidepressant Effexor for my menopause symptoms. Has anyone else tried this? Does it work? What side effects of the medication should I consider?

There are a wide variety of reasons why women are unable to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage surgical or natural menopause. Thus, women and the medical community are exploring a diverse array of options that may help women deal with the sometimes miserable symptoms of menopause. Antidepressants, specifically Effexor (venlafaxine), is one of those options.

The menopausal benefits of antidepressants were initially noticed in breast cancer patients. Chemotherapy can induce premature menopause causing women undergoing this treatment to experience symptoms such as hot flashes. Researchers began noticing that the women who were also using an antidepressant were experiencing fewer hot flashes. Further studies have indicated that antidepressants such as Effexor can be beneficial for other women coping with hot flashes; the results were not unique to breast cancer patients.

Hot flashes are the main symptom treated with Effexor. Typically, the dose needed is smaller than what is used to treat depression. However, each woman must work with her own medical team to find the dose that works for her. While the lowest dose is effective for many, others have found they need the medium dosing option. Keep in mind, side effects for Effexor tend to increase with the dose, thus using the lowest one possible is recommended.

As with all medications, Effexor does not work for all women. In one study, 60% of women using Effexor experienced fewer hot flashes. Comparatively, 80% experienced fewer hot flashes when using estrogen. Interestingly, Effexor has also been shown to decrease hot flashes in men who are undergoing hormonal treatment for cancer concerns.

In some cases, the side effects may worsen current menopause issues such sweating, weight changes, decrease in libido, fatigue, and dry mouth. On the other hand, Effexor could help with menopausal related depression while decreasing and reducing hot flashes. Pfizer, the maker of Effexor, indicates that the most common side effects are “constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, sexual side effects, sleepiness, sweating, and weakness.”

HysterSisters who have used this medication as an HRT alternative have reported benefits besides a reduction and intensity of hot flashes. Some found it eased anxiety, helped with depression, and stopped panic attacks. Others found it caused brain fog to lift. One member shared that it is a “wonder drug,” while another proclaims it has been a “life saver.”

Other HysterSisters have experienced negative side effects. These have included a rise in blood pressure and triglycerides. One reported having a stiff neck. More common side effects experienced were dry mouth, nausea, and fatigue. Based on personal experiences, HysterSisters have also cautioned against skipping a dose or stopping the medication “cold turkey” because of ensuing side effects.

For now, Effexor is not approved specifically for menopausal concerns. However, doctors may prescribe it “off-label” to women for whom it may be helpful. We recommend you talk to your medical team about your symptoms and health history to determine if this alternative option could be right for you. If you choose this medication, prior to starting the medication be sure to discuss any questions or concerns with the prescribing physician. You should also notify your doctor(s) of any new or troublesome symptoms that occur after starting Effexor. Finally, do not stop using this medication without first discussing it with your provider.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

05-06-2013 - 09:18 AM


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