The menopause is often called the ‘change of life’ and is not an illness, but a stage in a woman’s life where she stops ovulating and ceases to menstruate. It is preceded by a period known as the peri-menopause, where the symptoms of the menopause start, and the post-menopause where the symptoms cease. It is unusual because it can affect women in many different ways, and some will pass through it with barely any symptoms, whilst others suffer severe and distressing complications that require medical help.
The most common symptoms include hot flushes, which are often red and patchy and night sweats. As a result of both of these, a woman’s sleep may be disturbed and this can lead to irritability and problems with short-term memory and concentration. Another common symptom is vaginal atrophy, more commonly known as vaginal dryness. This manifests itself as an itching and dryness that can make sex very uncomfortable, though this can normally be treated with oestrogen cream and vaginal pessary. Other common symptoms include urinary infections, such as cystitis.
Only around 1 in 10 women will need to seek treatment for menopausal symptoms, and the most commonly prescribed treatment is Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT. This replaces the missing oestrogen and can relieve all the symptoms of the menopause. An alternative to this is Tibolone, which is a synthetic steroid that acts in much the same way as HRT.
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