A woman is said to have reached the menopause once she has not had a period for one year. The time leading up to the menopause is known as the peri-menopause and is often associated with menstrual irregularities. The usual symptom of the peri-menopause is a change in your menstrual pattern. The periods may become more frequent or you may find that you skip a period. The menopause is also associated with hot flushes and night sweats, sleep disturbance, vaginal dryness or discomfort and urinary symptoms such as cystitis.
These menopausal symptoms are self-limiting and will eventually stop of their own accord. This usually takes between 2 and 5 years from the symptoms starting.
If you have any of these symptoms then you may well be experiencing the peri-menopause or menopause. Measuring the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in your blood in can help confirm the menopause. Treatment of the menopause hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is effective in treating several of the most common menopausal symptoms. HRT works by replacing oestrogen which naturally begins to fall in the approach to the menopause causing the menopausal symptoms.
In addition to relieving the menopausal symptoms HRT has also been shown to prevent osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones) and also reduces the risk of cancer of the large bowel.
Unfortunately HRT is associated with slightly increased risks of certain medical conditions which include breast cancer, cancer of the womb and ovaries, blood clots in the veins and coronary heart disease and stroke. These increased risks are very small and the benefits of the HRT often outweigh the small additional risks. We would suggest that you discuss this with the Doctor at your consultation so that you can make an informed decision whether HRT would be beneficial for you.
There are many forms of HRT available and your Doctor will help find the right HRT for you.