Approach to the patient with menopausal symptoms

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Dec;93(12):4567-75. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-1272.


Many women experience menopausal symptoms during the menopausal transition and postmenopausal years. Hot flashes, the most common symptom, typically resolve after several years, but for 15-20% of women, they interfere with quality of life. For these women, estrogen therapy, the most effective treatment for hot flashes, should be considered. The decision to use hormone therapy involves balancing the potential benefits of hormone therapy against its potential risks. Accumulating data suggest that initiation of estrogen many years after menopause is associated with excess coronary risk, whereas initiation soon after menopause is not. Therefore, most now agree that short-term estrogen therapy, using the lowest effective estrogen dose, is a reasonable option for recently menopausal women with moderate to severe symptoms who are in good cardiovascular health. Short-term therapy is considered to be not more than 4-5 yr because symptoms diminish after several years, whereas the risk of breast cancer increases with longer duration of hormone therapy. A minority of women may need long-term therapy for severe, persistent vasomotor symptoms after stopping hormone therapy. However, these women should first undergo trials of nonhormonal options such as gabapentin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, returning to estrogen only if these alternatives are ineffective or cause significant side effects. Low-dose vaginal estrogens are highly effective for genitourinary atrophy symptoms, with minimal systemic absorption and endometrial effects.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Administration, Intravaginal
  • Atrophy
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Hot Flashes / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Menopause / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Progestins / administration & dosage
  • Progestins / therapeutic use
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Vagina / pathology


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Estrogens
  • Progestins