Could it be menopause? Take the quiz to find out, and see what your treatment options are.
It’s not just all hot sweats and mood swings when it comes to menopause. Changes in body odour, brittle nails and dry eyes can also be signs that your oestrogen levels are in decline. Getting the right help is what matters!
There are more than 30 symptoms of menopause which may affect virtually every part of your body from your skin, hair and nail to you brain and vaginal health.
So how do you know if what you’re experiencing is a sign that you are in the lead up to menopause – known as peri-menopause?
The average age for menopause – or your last period – is 51 in the UK. (To be diagnosed as menopausal, you will have gone a year without a period.) A blood test is no longer recommended to diagnose peri-menopause or menopause unless you’re under 45. Instead a diagnosis should be made on the symptoms that you have, according to the NICE guidelines.
But it’s not always an easy thing to diagnose and everyone’s journey toward menopause and beyond is different, which compounds the problem.
It can be confusing…
Some will see symptoms when they’re in their late 30’s or early 40’s while others won’t start until their late 40’s or early 50’s. Some will have a cluster of symptoms and others will sail through barely noticing a thing.
Some of the more common and well known symptoms are the mood swings, hot flushes and night sweats, but there are a host of others that can sometimes be confused with other conditions such as depression – and it’s easy to see why.
Women may turn up at a clinic and say they constantly feel tired, that they have a low mood and feel like they’ve lost interest in life. They may say they can’t sleep and that they are anxious or having panic attacks. Some may no longer feel like having sex and others may say they can’t concentrate and keep forgetting things which is impacting on their work. Some may have all of these and more.
Often women are prescribed anti-depressants but the NICE guidelines on Menopause recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as the first option for treatment of women around the menopause age as declining oestrogen levels may be the cause.
Anti-depressants are unlikely to help if this is the case, and the symptoms will persist. (But whatever you do – DO NOT STOP taking your prescribed antidepressants. If you have had no relief from your menopause symptoms consider going back to your GP or a menopause specialist to discuss other options that may be appropriate for you but keep taking your medications until advised otherwise by your doctor.)
Troubles down below…
Other symptoms that are rarely discussed but can have a huge impact on quality of life and relationships include stress incontinence (peeing when you sneeze, exercise or laugh), vaginal dryness, pain during or after sex and a feeling or burning or discomfort in the external genitalia and increased cases of UTI’s. These are known as the Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause of GSM.
In many cases these may not strike until a year or so after your periods have stopped – just about the time, ironically, when you’re starting to think you’re out of the woods.
Another area of concern for many women – literally about 98% of those who’ve taken our quiz – is thinning hair.
Changes in body odour, dry eyes and digestive issues such as increased wind or reflux are also significant concerns for many women.
The good news is that many of these things can be improved or relieved with the right advice and treatments.
Linking them to declining oestrogen and the menopause is the tricky thing.
Sometimes women may be not want to even think that menopause could be the cause – as it can be confronting. And in other cases the GP may not join the dots themselves.
Time for a chat with your GP…
‘Menopause Doctor’, Louise Newson, says she sees patient after patient who has been misdiagnosed and given medications they may not need because GPs haven’t realised that these things may in fact be the symptoms of menopause.
She wants women and their doctors to start having a conversation about these symptoms and menopause so women can get the help they need and avoid years of unnecessary discomfort and suffering.
Take our ‘Could it be Menopause’ quiz to find out what may help relieve your symptoms and where you can get help.