(HealthCentersOnline) - Women who suffer from menopausal symptoms may have an alternative to estrogen for treating hot flashes. Gabapentin, a seizure medication, was found to be as effective as estrogen in reducing hot flashes, according to a new study.
In the recent study, researchers at the University of Rochester compared both gabapentin and estrogen to a placebo in a randomized, double-blind study. Of the women who took the placebo sugar pill, 54 percent reported a reduction in hot flashes.
The gabapentin and estrogen groups reported a better response than the placebo group with a 71 percent to 72 percent decline in symptoms. The decline was noted in both the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
The study group was composed of 60 menopausal women divided into three groups. The first group of 20 received gabapentin and a placebo estrogen pill; the second received estrogen and a placebo gabapentin pill; and the third received two placebo pills.
Researchers used statistical methods to compare the reports of hot flashes throughout the 12-week period to their initial baseline symptoms. Based on the results of the study, the authors concluded that gabapentin appeared to be equally as effective as estrogen.
Gabapentin was approved by the FDA in 1994 for the treatment of epileptic seizures. It has also been used to treat headaches and pain from shingles, as well as other medical conditions.
Scientists speculate the gabapentin may reduce hot flashes by controlling the flow of calcium in and out of cells. This is one of the methods used by the body to control temperature.
The majority of postmenopausal women between the ages of 35 and 60 experience some form of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain. In the past, the hormone estrogen was considered the primary form of treatment for such symptoms.
A number of large studies have since shown that estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke in some women. Many women no longer choose to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to these risks.
An expert panel on menopause from the National Institutes of Health cautioned women to be wary of studies with limited safety data. They concluded that to date, nothing has been proven to be as effective as estrogen therapy and additional research is needed.
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