Background: Results of previous studies suggest that estrogen improves somatic and mild depressive symptoms experienced by perimenopausal women. This study investigated the efficacy of 17beta-estradiol for the treatment of clinically significant depressive disorders in endocrinologically confirmed perimenopausal women.
Methods: Perimenopausal women (aged 40-55 years, with irregular menstrual periods and serum concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone >25 IU/L), meeting criteria for major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, or minor depressive disorder, according to DSM-IV, were randomized to receive transdermal patches of 17beta-estradiol (100 microgram) or placebo in a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. A 4-week washout period followed the 12-week treatment phase. Outcome measures were the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale and Blatt-Kupperman Menopausal Index scores.
Results: Fifty women were enrolled in the study; 26 met DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder, 11 for dysthymic disorder, and 13 for minor depressive disorder. Remission of depression was observed in 17 (68%) women treated with 17beta-estradiol compared with 5 (20%) in the placebo group (P =.001). Subjects responded similarly to estradiol treatment, regardless of DSM-IV diagnosis. Patients treated with estradiol sustained antidepressant benefit of treatment after the 4-week washout period, although somatic complaints increased in frequency and intensity. Treatment was well tolerated and adverse events were rare in both groups.
Conclusion: Transdermal estradiol replacement is an effective treatment of depression for perimenopausal women.