FDA says low dose of antidepressant may help women with hot flashes

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DENVER -- It''s something all women will face at mid-life -- menopause.

Symptoms can begin as early as the late 40s and last for an entire decade.

Many women will experience fatigue and irritability, but more than 75 percent will end up coping with hot flashes.

A hot flash occurs as a result of the body's inability to steadily maintain normal temperature due to shifts in the hormonal balance.  A woman can begin feeling extreme, feverish heat all of the sudden that radiates through her body for 2 to 5 minutes then quickly disappears.

This can make life quite uncomfortable because the flashes can occur several times an hour.

After coping with these conditions while working during the day, most women then have problems sleeping through the night, waking up several times with night sweats and extreme heat.

Because hot flashes are caused by a change in estrogen levels, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was thought to be an ideal treatment, but the hormones were found to have a link to breast cancer in some patients.

Newer combinations of safer and more natural remedies (supplements and creams)  are available, but they affect estrogen levels, leaving women who already have an increased risk of breast cancer without options.

Something new may help all menopausal women, including those  with a family history of breast cancer.  The FDA has approved low doses of paroxetine, which is an ingredient in the antidepressant Paxil, as a remedy for hot flashes.

Denver based health expert Dr. Kristin Woodward said the drug can help to reset a woman's temperature controls.

"This is something that can really help women get through everyday life," Woodward said.

Paroxetine is not for every woman and some may experience side effects, like nausea.  However, the dose is 25 percent lower than that used to treat depression so fewer side effects are to be expected.

For more information about using a low dose of the antidepressant to treat hot flashes you can visit: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm359030.htm.