October 18th is World Menopause Day. The first World Menopause Day started on October 18th, 2016 one year after the publication of the first guidelines for the diagnosis and management of the menopause by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence. Since then, World Menopause Day has been held on October 18th every year.
Miss Choy Lee, Consultant Gynaecologist at One Ashford Hospital specialises in the treatment of menopause and HRT. Here she gives an understanding of menopause and provides answers to common questions she encounters on a daily basis.
What is the Menopause?
Now you probably think what is the big deal with menopause, isn’t it just a natural event in the lives of all women? Well, that’s just it, ALL women are affected by the menopause at some stage of their lives. There is now increasing awareness of the significant changes to a woman’s well being when they go through menopause and how this can impact on their quality of life.
Women go through menopause when their ovaries stop producing eggs along with the sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Periods become infrequent and then stop completely. The average age of the menopause in the UK is 50-51 years.
The commonest menopause symptoms are hot flushes and night sweats, interrupted sleep pattern, mood swings, poor concentration, tiredness, muscle and joint pains, loss of libido and vaginal dryness. These symptoms can start a few years before the menopause as ovarian function starts to decrease and can continue for up to 10 years after the menopause. In addition, the loss of the sex hormones can lead to osteoporosis and increased risk of heart disease. Well, how does a woman put up with all of these symptoms and still be expected to function as normal over this time span!
Women are living longer and also having to work longer before they are eligible for their pension. Up to 70% of women are very troubled by their menopause symptoms and it affects their ability to do their jobs and enjoy a good quality of life. Many women still think that they just have to ‘put up with it’. Some women do seek professional help but are told that they are depressed. If you are in the right age range, have the above symptoms, then you may well be going through the menopause.
For many women, replacing the sex hormones produced by the ovaries, will resolve their symptoms. This is known as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). It is the best treatment for symptoms of the menopause. There are risks associated with taking HRT, the most well-known risks are breast cancer, venous thromboembolism (blood clots in your blood vessels) and strokes. However, these risks are small and need to be balanced against quality of life. As a general rule, the benefits of HRT tend to exceed the risks for women up to age 60. Between age 60 to 70 the risks cancel out the benefits. After age 70 the risks tend to exceed the benefits. Another downside to HRT is that when it is stopped, menopausal symptoms will return. These rebound menopausal symptoms can be managed by weaning off HRT gradually. Each woman will have to make their own decision about whether to take HRT or not.
What else can I do to help relieve symptoms?
Other measures that can help with menopausal symptoms are dietary and lifestyle adjustments. Women can increase the amount of plant derived oestrogen in their diet from soya based products, use a fan and do regular weight bearing exercise such as walking to help prevent osteoporosis.
This is also a good time to have a health care check and review with your healthcare professional. Many GP’s have an interest in the menopause and HRT. They can also check if you have raised blood pressure and assess your future cardiovascular/osteoporosis risks. For women with more complex health problems who are considering HRT, your GP can refer you to a Specialist Menopause Healthcare professional. The British Menopause Society has a list of all the registered Specialist Menopause Clinics in the country. You can check their website to see the nearest clinic available. So don’t feel that you have to put up with the symptoms of the menopause or that you are going ‘mad’. Help is available.
Miss Choy Lee, Consultant Gynaecologist
Miss Lee has been an NHS Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist since 2000. She is also accredited by the British Menopause Society as a Menopause Healthcare Specialist.
To learn more on Miss Lee and her clinical interests, please click here
To make a booking to see Miss Choy Lee regarding any concerns you have relating to the menopause, or a gynaelogical issue, please call One Ashford Hospital on 01233 423000. Alternatively you can email our Reservations team on firstname.lastname@example.org
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