Menopausal symptoms, which affect about 70% of women, are thought to be due to the changing hormone levels, particularly Oestrogen, but many other factors such as diet and lifestyle, exercise and other medications can also influence symptoms.
Therefore for some women, lifestyle factors such as stopping smoking, eating healthily, reducing caffeine, reducing alcohol intake, reducing stress and taking regular exercise can considerably help the symptoms of the menopause.
Early menopausal symptoms include Physical, Psychological and Sexual problems:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Palpitations Joint aches
- Mood swings
- Difficulty coping
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
Sexual problems may be caused by vaginal dryness due to low Oestrogen levels, resulting in discomfort during intercourse. Interest in sex may decrease. Treatment of other menopausal symptoms may indirectly improve libido by improving feelings of well-being and energy levels e.g. by improving sleep through control of night sweats, but restoring hormone levels can also improve sensation. Hormonal treatment may not however be the “magic” answer as relationship problems can also affect libido.
Later menopause symptoms are due to the effects of lack of estrogen on the bladder and vagina and include:
- Passing urine more frequently by day and night
- Discomfort on passing urine
- Urine infection
- Leakage of urine
- Vaginal dryness, discomfort, burning and itching
These symptoms are extremely common and can cause significant distress but, often due to embarrassment, are under-reported and hence under-treated. Local estrogen preparations (vaginal tablet, creams, or vaginal ring) can be very helpful in relieving these symptoms. Low dose vaginal estrogen can be used when systemic estrogen is inappropriate, and can be continued in the long term without any known adverse effects. Non hormonal vaginal moisturizers can also be used.
Other later menopause symptoms include skin and hair changes due to the falling estrogen levels.
Skin may become dryer, thinner, less elastic and more prone to bruising. Skin itching can also occur. Skin symptoms often respond to estrogen replacement.
Hair thinning, dryness and the growth of unwanted hair can also be explained by the lack of estrogen.