Menopause and its symptoms
Sexual hormones play a big role in our lives, and not only because of their effect on our sexual behaviour. Testosterone, oestrogens and progesterone influence our brain functions as well as the structure and physiology of our bodies. Soft tissue, skin, bones and organs are affected by the presence or absence of these substances.
During our lives, we all experience changes in the quality and quantity of our hormones, which respond to phases in our reproductive cycle. When we reach puberty, our blood levels of sexual hormones increase significantly, changing our bodies to give them adult sexual features and preparing them for reproduction. A few decades after that, our blood levels of sexual hormones decrease and our reproductive functions disappear or become seriously affected. When this happen to women, the process of hormonal decrease is called menopause.
Female sexual hormones are oestrogen - which is linked to the creation and release of ovules - and progesterone - which prepares the uterus for pregnancy. Around the age of 50, the production of these hormones decrease, thus leading to the following symptoms:
-Sex drive decrease and pain during sex.
-Thinner skin and hair.
-Sleep disturbance and night sweat.
-Increased risk of osteoporosis and heart and vascular conditions.
-Sex drive decrease.
-Skin and vaginal dryness.
Around 80% of women experience negative symptoms when reaching menopause. The UK average for the beginning of this stage is age 51, but some women experience premature menopause at ages as short as 40 years or below. The last menstrual period is considered to be the actual beginning of menopause, but some women can experience symptoms of hormonal changes while they still menstruate. Most symptoms last for as long as 2 to 5 years, although some can last for longer.
The recommended management of the menopause varies from one case to another, and factors like age, symptoms and history of certain diseases are important to decide what is the best approach. As symptoms are more intense in the first years of menopause, some treatments are recommended for this early stage. New research suggests that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the best approach for early or premature menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy is a pharmacological intervention aimed to decrease or treat the symptoms of menopause. Synthetic female hormones are administrated to the patient in order to compensate her lack of oestrogen and/or progesterone, which is the cause of her symptoms. If you want to learn more, further information on HRT can be read here.
HRT is recommended for short term use, but not for long term use. Of course, no treatment is without its flaws, and HRT have some contraindications worth taking on account. This has led to controversy about whether or not doctors should prescribed HRT to menopausic women. A recent report by NICE brings an answer to this particular matter.
HRT recommended for menopausic women
In the early 2000's, two large studies showed that HRT had contraindications, especially in long term use. It increased the likelihood of certain diseases, such as VTE and strokes, as well as breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer. There was concern about these side effects, and for a while HRT wasn't recommended for the treatment of menopausal symptoms.
However, further research showed that the side effects for short term use were significantly lower, and the positive effects of reducing menopausal symptoms - some of which can be very unpleasant and even dangerous - outweighed the negative side effects. For this reason, NICE published guidelines encouraging GPs to offer HRT as a first line treatment option for female patients with this sort of symptoms. Some representatives of the public system stated that HRT was already provided to women, while others pointed out that the negative image that early studies gave to this treatment has caused many doctors to be overly cautious about this prescription. Click on this link for more information on the NICE decision.
HRT is a legal and recognized treatment option for menopausal symptoms. HRT is now available online for sale under prescription. If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms such as the ones described on the table above, we encourage you to look for professional advice. A simple hormonal replacement treatment could be the solution to your problem, and even prevent further complications of your syndrome. Don't forget that this treatment requires a yearly follow-up by your doctor, to make sure that there is no significant negative alterations caused by the treatment. HRT has been reported reasonably safe for short term treatments, and it is not advised for long term approaches of over five years.