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What is menopause?

Menopause occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing a hormone called oestrogen, resulting in the end of her menstrual periods. It’s diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. 1,2

Menopause is a natural biological process, but some of the symptoms can often be difficult to deal with.2 The top 4 most bothersome symptoms for which women seek medical attention are hot flushes, night sweats, mood and sleep disturbances. 3 There are many effective treatments available, from lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy. 2Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51. 2

Women who have had their ovaries removed (oophorectomy) will immediately go into menopause, no matter how old they are. 2 Women who have had a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) or who have undergone treatment for cancer such as chemotherapy & radiotherapy can often experience premature menopause. 2

visual: stages of menopause
visual: female body outlining menopause symptoms

Signs & symptoms of menopause

In the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), you might experience these signs and symptoms: 2

  • Irregular periods:
    • Your cycles may become longer or shorter than usual. You may begin to skip periods. The amount of flow may become lighter or heavier 1
  • Hot flushes:
    • A hot flush is a sudden feeling of intense heat that rushes to the upper body and face. 4 A hot flush may last from a few seconds to several  minutes. 4 Hot flashes affect 75% (or 3 out of 4 women) over the age of 50 years 3
  • Vaginal dryness:
    • As oestrogen hormone levels decrease, the lining of the vagina may become thinner, dryer, and less elastic. 1 Vaginal dryness may cause pain during sex. 1 Vaginal infections and urinary tract infection may occur more often 1
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Loss of breast fullness

Treatment of Menopause

Treatment includes lifestyle management and there is a range of medication that your doctor may prescribe. 1,2

For example:

  • Measures that can reduce hot flushes include: 2,3
    • Avoid hot and spicy foods and drinks
    • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
    • Layer clothing and remove layers to stay cool
    • Wear lightweight cotton clothing
    • Sip cold water at start of hot flush
    • Use fans or air conditioning
  • Vaginal moisturisers and lubricants can be used to help with vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse & are available over-the-counter 1,2
  • Your doctor may prescribe Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can help relieve the symptoms of menopause. 1 HRT comes in different forms – tablets, skin patches or creams/gels 1

If you would like to discuss your menopausal symptoms and to get advice on the right treatment options for you, speak to your Medicare Pharmacy healthcare professional about our doctor video consultations.

References: 1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The Menopause Years. [Online] 2015 May [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/The-Menopause-Years. 2. Mayo Clinic. Menopause. [Online] 2017 July 15 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause 3. Umland EM. Treatment Strategies for Reducing the Burden of Menopause-Associated Vasomotor Symptoms. J Manag Care Pharm 2008;14(3)(suppl S):S14-S19. 4. South African Menopause Society. Symptoms of the Menopaus [Online] 2017 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: http://www.menopause.co.za/Patients/Symptoms.

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