Menopause: What are the common symptoms and treatments?

By Dr Louise Newson

Most women will experience some symptoms around the menopause, but the severity and duration of these will vary from woman to woman.

A survey carried out by the ITV's Tonight found that one in four women going through "the change" experienced nasty side-effects.

And a quarter said that they had considered leaving their jobs because of the menopause.

Menopausal symptoms vary tremendously between women and can be non-existent, last for a few years or last for decades.

They occur as a result of low levels of oestrogen in your body.

It can be very common to have menopausal symptoms but still have periods. If you are still having periods, then you are perimenopausal.

However, when describing symptoms, the term menopausal is usually used.

Symptoms of the menopause often have a very negative effect on your partner, family and work colleagues.

They often come and go so you may have some months where you feel completely normal and then other times when you experience unpleasant symptoms.

Some more common symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes

They vary in length from a few minutes to much longer. They can be associated with sweating, dizziness, feeling light-headed and even heart palpitations.

  • Night sweats

You may find that you wake up several times each night and are “drenched” with sweat.

  • Mood changes

You may find that you have become more short tempered and angry which is out of character for you.

  • Depression, anxiety, panic attacks and irritability

These are symptoms that cannot be underestimated. You may have symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger and irritation which can really interfere with the quality of your life.

  • Tiredness and poor sleep

You may find that you are having more unsettled and less fulfilled nights’ sleep. Even if your sleep is not affected, you may find that you are more tired than normal during the day.

  • Lack of libido

Reduced or absent libido (sex drive) occurs when your hormone levels fall. This can also be related to low testosterone levels in your body.

  • Poor concentration

You may find that it is harder to concentrate and that you are less able to multi-task.

  • Joint pains

These occur because oestrogen is important at providing lubrication in your joints and can reduce inflammation in your joints.

  • Hair and skin changes

Lower levels of oestrogen can lead to reduced elasticity of your skin, dry skin and fine wrinkling of your skin. Your hair can become thinner and less glossy.

  • Poor memory

It can be common to forget words, appointments, birthdays and even doing silly things (eg putting car keys in the fridge!). Your brain might not feel as engaged as much as it used to.

  • Vaginal dryness, itching or soreness

These changes may result in sexual intercourse being more uncomfortable.

  • Urinary symptoms

Symptoms such an urgency to get to the toilet and recurring urinary infections or cystitis can occur.

Dr Louise Newson from Parkway Hospital in Solihill explains some of the more common symptoms women may experience during the menopause.