Some of the things that make menopause so annoying are those hot flashes. They can strike at any given day of the week or hour of the day — including at bedtime, causing those night sweats that can definitely keep any menopausal woman from enjoying a restorative kind of sleep.
Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment that is deemed effective for minimizing a lot of the nagging symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes. While it can certainly help make menopause easier to bear, hormone replacement therapy is known to come with certain risks. It’s not an option for women with certain medical histories, such as those who are survivors of breast cancer as well as at risk of developing blood clots.
Some of the known risks of hormone replacement therapy for dealing with menopause are:
- Heart attack
- Breast cancer
- Hip and spine fractures
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal bleeding
The probable risks of hormone replacement therapy depends on certain factors, in particular which types or combinations of hormones are used in the treatment.
As an example, numerous studies have shown that women who received estrogen only while undergoing hormone replacement therapy had higher risk of developing breast cancer. Those who took estrogen only or a combination of estrogen and progesterone had increased risk of hip and spine fractures.
For menopausal women who are bugged by hot flashes but are not ideal candidates for hormone replacement therapy or simply do not want to risk it, there’s hope! At the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium held in December 2018, the presenters said that there is a drug that can help reduce the frequency as well as intensity of hot flashes in women who cannot or refuse to undergo hormone replacement therapy, and that’s oxybutynin.
Actually, oxybutynin is not a recent pharmaceutical invention by modern-day science. The truth is it’s been in our midst since the early 1970s. Traditionally, it’s used for dealing with bladder incontinence.
Oxybutynin is actually an anti-cholinergic agent, which means that it reduces or inhibits the spasming of smooth muscles in the body such as those in the urinary bladder; hence it’s commonly used for the management of bladder incontinence. It’s for this reason exactly why the drug can be beneficial for menopausal women who like to put their hot flashes under control — oxybutynin reduces the spasming of the smooth muscles that control the blood vessels. By keeping the blood vessels from widening abnormally, excessive flow of blood to and heating of the skin can be prevented.
Unfortunately, just like with the case of any other drug, oxybutynin can come with a few unfavorable side effects. Being an anti-cholinergic agent, it can cause dryness of the mouth. Since the digestive tract is controlled or regulated by smooth muscles, too, it’s not unlikely for a menopausal woman to experience constipation after taking oxybutynin.
Aside from the ones already mentioned above, some other potential side effects of anti-cholinergic drugs such as oxybutynin that are worth noting include:
- Blurring of vision
- Urinary retention
Health authorities say that it’s not a good idea to mix oxybutynin with other anti-cholinergic drugs. Otherwise, it’s not unlikely for intense side effects associated with these drugs to be experienced. They also strongly discourage taking oxybutynin with certain herbal products, including most especially those that are commonly taken for the management of the various unfavorable symptoms associated with menopause.
Prior to starting a treatment plan for dealing with menopause symptoms, it is highly recommended for a menopausal woman to first inform a health care provider about her symptoms, medical history, drugs and supplements currently being taken, and health goals.