EPO is used mostly to relieve the itchiness caused by skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis. It is also used to ease breast tenderness from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or other causes, and to help manage menopausal symptoms.
Eczema symptoms include redness and scaling in addition to itching. More than 30 human studies report the benefits of EPO for eczema and dermatitis. A study of 1,207 people found that EPO helped relieve symptoms from skin conditions, including itching, crusting, edema (fluid retention and swelling), and redness. EPO can be used in children and adults with skin conditions.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Many women throughout the world take EPO to reduce PMS symptoms, although scientific evidence is lacking. In one review of 10 studies that used EPO to treat PMS, only two were well designed. Both of those studies found that EPO had no effect on PMS symptoms. More research is needed.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Although a few studies have found that people with RA who took EPO felt better, the studies were hampered by poor design and high drop-out rates. Also, there wasn't any evidence that taking EPO actually helped slow down the joint damage that occurs with RA. People with RA should be treated with conventional medications to slow down or stop permanent joint damage.
One small study suggests that taking EPO may help reduce symptoms in some people with Raynaud's phenomenon. But the study found no difference in hand temperature between people who took EPO and those who took placebo. More studies are needed.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a nerve condition where people with diabetes have numbness, tingling, pain, burning, or a lack of sensation in their feet and legs. Two studies have found that GLA may help reduce symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
Although there is not a lot of scientific evidence, EPO is widely used to treat breast pain (mastalgia) in a number of European countries. A few studies have found that EPO seemed to help. But they were not well-designed studies. Other studies showed no benefit. More research is needed.
Preliminary studies suggest EPO may help alleviate the hot flashes that often accompany menopause. More research is needed.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use EPO without first talking to your doctor.
Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants): EPO may raise the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and clopidogrel (Plavix).
Blood pressure medications: EPO may lower blood pressure in some people, although researchers have not confirmed this link. If you take medications to treat high blood pressure, ask your doctor before taking EPO.
Phenothizines: People who take a class of medications called phenothiazines to treat schizophrenia should not take EPO because it may increase the risk of seizures.
Medications to control seizures: EPO may lower the threshold for seizures, so people who are prone to seizures should not take it.
Antidepressants: EPO may interact with some antidepressants, including selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, such as:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
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