The menopause happens when a woman’s body stops having periods due to the natural decline of oestrogen levels. The average age for a woman to hit the menopause in the UK is around 50, but it’s not uncommon for it to take place anywhere between 45 and 55. Women may also find that symptoms begin earlier than this, sometimes before the age of 40. This is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency. Symptoms may continue for years after, though this is rare.
Many of our gynaecological Consultants offer effective advice and treatments for patients currently dealing with menopause.
The causes of menopause
The most common cause of menopause is the natural decline in a woman’s oestrogen levels which cause her ovaries to stop producing eggs. Why this can happen to a woman earlier in life is still unknown as there are no clear causes.
Underlying medical conditions such as Down’s syndrome can cause menopause as well as medical treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or oophorectomies (a surgical removal of the ovaries).
There are a wide range of symptoms for menopause and they can often be confused for other medical conditions. With all of these symptoms certain lifestyle changes or medication can help to alleviate them. The most common ones are:
People who suffer with night sweats will often wake up drenched in sweat in sodden bedding, even if the room is cool. The medical term for the condition is nocturnal hyperhidrosis and it’s usually harmless. It can, however, feel uncomfortable/be disruptive for your sleeping and embarrassing, especially if you share your bed with a partner.
If you are losing out on sleep due to night sweats we offer sleep studies to help work out a way to improve the quality of your sleep.
Most women who go through the menopause will experience hot flushes. They cause a sudden feeling of heat to surge through the body and can induce sweating, palpitations, and blushing. Just how many a woman will experience a day, how severe they are, and how long they last, vary between each individual with some claiming that they’re a mild annoyance, to others who find they disrupt their normal lives.
Hot flushes can last for years after the menopause and most women learn to accommodate them into their everyday routine. If this isn’t achievable, however, there are medicinal and holistic treatment options available that some have found to help ease the discomfort.
This can happen at any age but is most common during the menopause due to the decrease of oestrogen levels. It’s characterised by irritation and a burning or itchy sensation. You may also find sex uncomfortable and/or that you have a reduced sex drive which can make it hard to become aroused or reach orgasm. It can also increase the likelihood of getting urinary tract infections (UTIs).
One simple treatment that could help alleviate the symptoms is to apply a lubricant or vaginal moisturiser. If this doesn’t help, talk to your Consultant for more options.
You may be potentially suffering from insomnia if you’re spending long periods of time trying to fall asleep, waking up multiple times in the night, not feeling refreshed from the sleep you do get, or feel tired and irritated during the day and find it hard to concentrate.
Some people may go through bouts of insomnia during their life without experiencing any issues whilst others find it causes a serious impact to themselves and their families.
If you’re struggling with insomnia we have both sleep and psychological experts available for appointments.
Low Moods / Anxiety
You may experience low moods or anxiety during the menopause, either as a direct result of it or due to the other symptoms that may develop. If this occurs you are likely to feel tired or have little energy, lose your appetite or comfort eat, you may even come down with a feeling of hopelessness. There are certain life changes you can make to help ease this such as reducing your alcohol intake, regular exercise, and eating a healthier diet, but should this become bad enough that you want to seek help there is medicinal aid or counselling available.
If you think you are experiencing menopausal symptoms a simple blood test that measures your hormone levels will confirm this. It’s usually offered to women aged 40-45 but can be done younger than 40 if premature menopause is suspected as the cause of the symptoms.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT is the most common treatment for the menopause and involves taking oestrogen to replace the levels being lost. This relieves the symptoms that occur due to this.
The main two types of HRT are combined HRT (oestrogen and progestogen) which is prescribed to women who still have their womb as oestrogen taken on its own can increase the risk of womb cancer. The other is oestrogen-only HRT which is given to women who have had their womb removed via a hysterectomy.
Like all treatments there are certain risks involved with HRT and these will be discussed with your Consultant.
The other treatments for menopause largely focus around tackling the individual symptom. These can be worked out with your Consultant who may want you to see one of our other specialists in the relevant field.