Find out more about the Menopause and its symptoms.
Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman's last period. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition, or perimenopause. The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about 7 years but can last as long as 14 years. During the menopausal transition, the body's production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones made by the ovaries, varies greatly. Bones become less dense, making women more vulnerable to fractures. During this period, too, the body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily.
Symptoms of Menopause
Most women will experience menopausal symptoms. Some of these can be quite severe and have a significant impact on your everyday activities. Common symptoms include: hot flushes night sweats vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex difficulty sleeping low mood or anxiety reduced sex drive (libido) problems with memory and concentration 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.
Diagnosis of Menopause
It's worth talking to one of our GPs if you have menopausal symptoms that are troubling you or if you're experiencing symptoms of the menopause before 45 years of age. They can usually confirm whether you're menopausal based on your symptoms, but a blood test to measure your hormone levels may be carried out if you're under 45.
Causes of Menopause
The menopause is caused by a 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. Premature or early menopause can occur at any age, and in many cases there's no clear cause. Sometimes it's caused by a treatment such as surgery to remove the ovaries (oophorectomy), some breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or it can be brought on by an underlying condition, such as Down's syndrome or Addison's disease.
Treatment for Menopause
Your GP can offer treatments and suggest lifestyle changes if you have severe menopausal symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life. These include: 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 cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a type of talking therapy that can help with low mood and anxiety 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're unable to take HRT.
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