Treating symptoms of the menopause

Not all womenwant treatment to relieve symptoms of the menopause , but treatments are available if you find the symptoms particularly troublesome.

The main treatment for menopausal symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT) , althoughother treatments are also available for some of the symptoms.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

HRT involves taking oestrogen to replace the decline in your body's own levels around the time of the menopause. This can relieve many of the associated symptoms.

HRT has been out of favour since the early 2000s because of a link with breast cancer, but new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) say that HRT is effective and should be offered to women with menopausal symptoms, after discussing the risks and benefits.

There are two main types of HRT:

  • combined HRT (oestrogen andprogestogen) for women with menopausal symptoms who still have their womb (oestrogen taken on its own can otherwise increase your risk of wombcancer )
  • oestrogen-only HRT for women who have had their womb removed in a hysterectomy

HRT is available as tablets, skin patches, a gel to rub into the skinor implants.

HRT is extremely effective at relieving menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes and night sweats, but there are anumber of side effects, including breast tenderness, headaches and vaginal bleeding. It'salso associated with an increased risk of blood clots and breast cancer in some women.

HRT is not advisable for some women, such as those who have had certain types of breast cancer or are at high risk of getting breast cancer.

Your GP can give you more information about the risks and benefits of HRT to help you decide whether or not you want to take it.

Hot flushes and night sweats

Ifyou experience hot flushes and night sweats as a result of the menopause, simple measures may sometimes help, such as:

  • wearing light clothing
  • keeping your bedroom cool at night
  • taking a cool shower, using a fan or having a cold drink
  • trying to reduce your stress levels
  • avoiding potential triggers, such as spicy food, caffeine,smoking and alcohol
  • taking regular exercise and losing weight if you're overweight

If the flushes and sweats are frequent or severe, your GP may suggest taking HRT.

If HRT isn't suitable for you, or you would prefer not to have it, your GP may recommend other medications that can help, such as clonidine (a high blood pressure medicine)or certain antidepressants .

These medications cancause unpleasant side effects, so it's important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before starting treatment.

Mood changes

Some women experience mood swings, low mood and anxiety around the time of the menopause.

Self-help measures such as getting plenty of rest, taking regular exercise and doing relaxing activities such as yoga and tai chi may help. Medication and other treatments are also available, including HRT and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) .

CBT isa type of talking therapy that can improve low mood and feelings of anxiety. Your GP may be able to refer you for CBT on the NHS, or recommend self-help options such as online CBT courses. If HRT isn't effective, you might be offered a testosterone supplement.

Testosterone is the male sex hormone, but it can help to restore sex drive in menopausal women. Its not currently licensed for use in women, although it can be prescribed by a doctor if they think it might help.

Possible side effects of testosterone supplements include acne and unwanted hair growth .

However, side effects are very rare.

You can also use over-the-counter vaginal moisturisers or lubricants in addition to, or instead of, vaginal oestrogen.

and sex after the menopause .

Weak bones

Women who have been through the menopause are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis (weak bones) as a result of the lower level of oestrogen in the body.

You can reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis by:

  • taking HRT HRT canhelp to prevent osteoporosis, althoughthis effect doesn't tend to lastaftertreatment stops
  • exercisingregularly includingweight-bearing and resistance exercises
  • eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and sources of calcium , such aslow-fat milk and yoghurt
  • getting some sunlight sunlight on your skin triggers the production of vitamin D , which can help to keep your bones strong
  • stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol
  • taking calcium and/or vitamin D supplements if you don't feel you're getting enoughof these discuss this with your GP

and preventing osteoporosis .

Premature menopause

Prematuremenopause, also known as premature ovarian insufficiency, is when a woman experiences the menopause before the age of40.

The two main treatmentsfor early menopause are HRT and the combined contraceptive pill ,as they both contain oestrogen and progestogen.

These treatmentscan help to relievetroublesome menopausal symptoms and reduce the risk of problems such as osteoporosis.

Your doctor will normally recommend continuingtreatment until at least around the time of natural menopause (45 to 55 years of age).

Follow-up appointments

If you're having treatment for your menopausal symptoms,you'll need to return to your GP for a follow-up review after three months,and once a year after that.

During your reviews, your GP may:

  • make sure your symptoms are under control
  • ask about any side effects and bleeding patterns
  • check your weight and blood pressure
  • review the type of HRT you're taking and make any necessary changes
  • discusswhen you could stop treatment and how this could be done

Many women will need treatment for a few years, untilmost of theirmenopausal symptoms have passed.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016