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10
Jul 2018
Menopause

What is the menopause?

Menopause is the point in a woman's life at which she is no longer fertile, and menstrual periods have ceased, for a period of 12 months.

Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.

The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather it is gradual process. This so-called perimenopausal transition period is a different experience for each woman. The time of transition can take between two to ten years and in this time a woman can experience a whole host of symptoms.

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51. For some women it can start as early as their 30s or as late as their 60s.

Symptoms of the menopause

In the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), you might experience these signs and symptoms:

  • Irregular periods
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Loss of breast fullness

As mentioned earlier, women will have very different experiences and symptoms during the menopause. 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're aged 40 to 45.

Treatment of symptoms

For some women the symptoms can be severe and can affect daily life.

Your GP can prescribe various medications based on hormone replacement therapy as it is the decline in oestrogen that is happening to the body at this time.

  • hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – tablets, skin patches, gels and implants that relieve menopausal symptoms by replacing oestrogen
  • vaginal oestrogen creams, lubricants or moisturisers for vaginal dryness

It is also important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise as this can also help alleviate some of the symptoms.

Complementary and alternative treatments aren't recommended for symptoms of the menopause, because it's generally unclear how safe and effective they are.

Some remedies can also interact with other medications and cause side effects.

Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice if you're thinking about using a complementary therapy.

For further information visit:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/treatment/#complementary-and-alternative-therapies

Alternatively speak to your GP if you feel you are experiencing any of these symptoms and want further advice.

By Sabina Mohmed

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