During the lead up to, and after menopause, changing hormone levels cause a variety of symptoms. The human body is extremely complex and the impact of fluctuating hormones levels are not completely understood. However, advances in medical research does now provide insights in to what is happening and allows healthcare practitioners to determine suitable treatments for the symptoms.
In this article, we explore some of the common symptoms of menopause, the hormonal causes and potential options available that can help alleviate these symptoms.
Hot flushes / night sweats:
These are the most common symptoms reported by women, and are typically experienced for a couple of years.
Hot flushes, lasting 3 to 5 minutes at a time, are thought to be caused by changing oestrogen levels impacting on the temperature control systems in the brain. The body’s temperature naturally rises and falls, but the change in hormones caused by the menopause, can lead to excessive variations.
Often, hot flushes or night sweats can lead to disturbed sleep and insomnia, and therefore, management of these symptoms can lead to improvement of sleep patterns.
Management options can include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Alternative or complementary treatments
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
- Other medical treatments
Other factors can affect body temperature control, compounding the effects of the hormone imbalances, such as:
- Being overweight
- Alcohol & caffeine consumption
- Eating spicy foods
Consequently, some changes to diet can be helpful, along with a number of other lifestyle changes:
- wearing cotton clothing rather than man-made fibres
- wearing loose thin layers of clothing rather than thick tight-fitting clothes
- keeping the temperature lower in the bedroom
If changes to your lifestyle are not completely successful, the medicinal and alternative treatments can be considered – see later articles.
Menopause and Mood Swings
Mood swings during menopause are triggered by the hormonal transition, where changing levels of oestrogen affect the balance of other hormones such as those that help to regulate mood and emotions.
Other psychological symptoms include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, difficulty coping and forgetfulness may be related to hormonal changes. Sometimes these can be a result of other menopause symptoms, e.g. night sweats causing a lack of sleep and hence tiredness etc.
In addition, the menopause is often at the age, when a woman has to consider teenage children’s demands, the health of elderly parents, work pressures – all of which can accentuate the symptoms caused by the hormone changes that are taking place.
Sexual symptoms of menopause
Along with other complex physical and emotional symptoms, changing hormone levels pre– and post menopause can also impact on a women’s sexual health.
Low testosterone and estrogen can result in a lower libido, thinning of the vaginal walls and reduced lubrication. These changes lead to vaginal dryness, causing discomfort during intercourse, which is not only painful but may lead to added distress.
Treatments can be aimed at all the possible causes,
Vaginal moisturisers and lubricants will rehydrate the vaginal skin and relieve the pain caused by dryness during intercourse;
Local hormone therapy will improve the health of the vaginal wall through thickening of the vaginal skin, improving elasticity and increasing natural lubrication.
Other symptoms of menopause
Other physical symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances include those affecting the bladder. These may be:
- Passing urine more often by day and/or by night
- Discomfort on passing urine
- Increase in urine infections
- Leakage of urine
These urinary symptoms can be distressing and embarrassing for a woman and affect her general health. Often repeated courses of anitbiotics are prescribed and invasive investigations of the bladder are performed. Local and systemic hormone therapies can be very effective in relieving these symptoms, reducing the need for other tests and treatments.
The impact of menopause is unique to each woman. No single treatment is best for all symptoms and all women.
At Hormone Health, our specialists pride themselves on offering personalised, evidence based advice, backed by research and guidelines thus creating tailored individualised treatment plans for each woman.