Half of women going through the menopause in Britain do not contact a healthcare professional for advice, despite displaying on average seven different symptoms, a survey has revealed.
As well as hot flushes and night sweats, around a fifth of women surveyed experienced unexpected sleeping problems or difficulties with memory.
Many said the symptoms had affected their life at home, with friends and at work. Half of women surveyed also reported that their sex life was affected.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recently published guidelines on the diagnosis and management on the menopause.
What is the menopause?
The menopause refers to the time in every woman’s life when her periods stop and her ovaries lose their reproductive function.
Usually, this occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In the UK the average age is 51. In a few exceptional cases women may experience premature menopause in their 30s, or even younger.
What causes the menopause?
The menopause is influenced by a change in hormone levels. During a woman’s fertile years, her ability to produce an egg each month is associated with the release of oestrogen.
As women get older, their store of eggs in the ovary decreases and their ability to conceive diminishes. At this time, less oestrogen is produced, causing the body to behave differently.
However the body does not stop producing oestrogen overnight, and the process can even take several years, during which symptoms arise gradually.
What are the common symptoms of the menopause?
- Hot flushes are the most common symptom, occurring in three in every four menopausal women
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Irritated skin
- More frequent urinary incontinence
- Low mood
- Reduced interest in sex
What can be done to minimise the effects?
Some women choose to take hormone replacement to treat the menopause.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle both during and after the menopause can help to minimize the effects.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Take regular exercise
- Stop smoking
- Don't drink to excess
- Make use of health screening services
For further information visit the British Menopause Society website.