|Menopause Symptoms May Come Back After Stopping Menopausal Hormone Therapy
Some women who use a combination of estrogen and progestin
to control the symptoms of menopause might find symptoms
return when they stop the hormones, according to the
latest findings from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI),
a major clinical trial of the risks and benefits of
menopausal hormone therapy supported by the National
Institutes of Health (NIH).
Of those women in the study who had symptoms such as
hot flashes, night sweats, pain, or stiffness when the
study started, more than half found that these symptoms
came back when they stopped menopausal hormone therapy.
A smaller percentage who did not have symptoms before
developed them after stopping the hormones. Women stopped
using the study pills when the trial was halted in July
2002 following the discovery that the risks of using
these hormones, including increased heart disease, outweighed
the benefits such as prevention of fractures. Women
who described their symptoms as moderate to severe before
the study were more likely to have them come back than
women with mild symptoms. These study results will be
reported by Judith K. Ockene, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts
Medical School, Worcester, and other WHI investigators
in the July 13, 2005, issue of the Journal of the
American Medical Association (JAMA).*
“Before this study, we knew little about the effects
a woman experiences when she suddenly stops menopausal
hormone therapy use,” said Sherry Sherman, Ph.D., of
the Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology Program at the
National Institute on Aging (NIA). “Now women are learning
that their symptoms might return, even after using these
hormones for more than 5 years.”
An estimated 2 million American women go through menopause
each year. The Women’s Health Initiative found that
women ages 50-79 years should not use menopausal hormone
therapy to prevent heart disease or dementia. But, if
women are bothered by moderate to severe menopausal
symptoms, the Food and Drug Administration recommends
that they can use estrogen (with progesterone if the
woman has her uterus) at the lowest effective dose for
the shortest time needed to manage them.
The WHI is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute (NHLBI) and conducted in collaboration
with the National Institute on Aging, National Cancer
Institute, National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal
and Skin Disorders, and Office of Research on Women’s
Detailed information on menopause may be found in the
NIA’s brochure, Menopause: One Woman’s Story, Every
Woman’s Story and its updates, http://www.niapublications.org/pubs/menopause/index.asp.
A description of the Women’s Health Initiative is available
online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi/index.html.
An NHLBI fact sheet on menopausal hormone therapy is
available online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/women/pht_facts.htm.
To reach Dr. Sherry Sherman, Project Official of NIA’s
Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) and
Planning Chair of NIH’s recent State-of-the-Science
Conference on Management of Menopause-Related Symptoms,
please contact the NIA Office of Communications and
Public Liaison at 301-496-1752. To reach Dr. Ockene,
lead author of the new study, call Kelly Bishop at 508-856-2000.
For contact information for the WHI investigators, contact
the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Communications
Office at 301-496-4236.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) The
Nation's Medical Research Agency is comprised
of 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and
supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical
research, and investigates the causes, treatments,
and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more
information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.