Hot flashes (or flushes) are the most commonly reported symptoms during the menopause transition and early postmenopausal years, particularly in Western societies; they affect 60-90% of women and can lead to significant physical discomfort and functional impairment. The emergence of hot flashes and night sweats (also known as vasomotor symptoms [VMS]) coincide with a period in life that is also marked by dynamic changes in hormone and reproductive function that interconnect with the aging process, changes in metabolism, lifestyle behaviours and overall health. Estrogen-based therapies have long been the treatment of choice for women suffering from VMS. More recent concerns over long-term safety of menopausal hormone treatments, however, have led physicians and patients to pursue non-hormonal strategies to alleviate their symptoms. In this article, we review most of the efficacy and safety data on non-hormonal treatments for VMS published over the past 20 years. We discuss the evidence for treating symptomatic women in different clinical scenarios, e.g. VMS with and without concomitant depression or VMS following the use of anti-estrogen therapies. Overall, efficacy data support the use of some psychotropic medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and gabapentin. Complementary and alternative methods for VMS also showed limited but promising results, although more definitive studies are warranted. Clinicians should therefore be able to tailor treatment strategies for those who are unable or unwilling to use hormones to alleviate VMS and improve overall functioning and quality of life.
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