Melissa O’Brien, Allcare’s Pharmacy Regulation & Health Services Coordinator, discusses what the menopause symptoms are and ways of managing them.
What is the Menopause?
The menopause is a natural change in the balance of the body's sex hormones, which occurs as you get older. It happens when your ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone oestrogen and no longer release an egg each month. Menopause has been reached when it has been 12 months since your last period. Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes though, they can stop suddenly.
The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, but some women experience the menopause before 45 years of age. This is known as early menopause and can sometimes happen naturally, or due to surgery or some medicines.
Perimenopause refers to the time leading up to natural menopause where oestrogen is declining and menopausal symptoms commence.
What are symptoms of the menopause?
Most women will experience menopausal symptoms at some stage. Some of these can be quite severe and have a significant impact on your everyday activities.
Common symptoms include:
When does menopause happen?
Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around 4 years after your last period, although some women experience them for much longer.
It is worth talking to your Pharmacist or GP if you have menopausal symptoms that are troubling you or if you are experiencing symptoms of menopause before 45 years of age.
Your GP can usually confirm whether you are menopausal based on your symptoms, but a blood test to measure your hormone levels may be carried out if you are under 45.
What are the treatments for menopausal symptoms?
Your GP can offer treatments and suggest lifestyle changes if you have menopausal symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): these include tablets, skin patches, gels and implants that relieve menopausal symptoms by replacing hormones.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): this is a type of therapy that can help with low mood and anxiety
- Vaginal oestrogen creams, lubricants, or moisturisers for vaginal dryness
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly – maintaining a healthy weight and staying fit and strong can improve some menopausal symptoms
Your GP may refer you to a menopause specialist if your symptoms do not improve after trying treatment or if you are unable to take HRT.
Should I take HRT?
The risk/benefit balance of HRT varies between each woman and from year to year depending on the presence or not of symptoms, other medical history and number of years that HRT has been taken.
For those experiencing menopausal symptoms that are troublesome, HRT is the most effective answer to relieving said symptoms. Although not completely risk free, the benefits of HRT generally outweigh the risks. If you have any concerns about taking HRT, you should speak to doctor.
There are no official limits as to how long HRT can be taken, it is up to each woman to balance the risks against the benefits for her. Some women may not need HRT at all or may take it for a few years only, while others continue to take HRT for many years since it continues to provide significant benefits for them.
Speak to your Allcare Pharmacist or your GP if you have any questions about Menopause. Pop into your local Allcare Pharmacy for advice.