Menopause relief: What are my treatment options?
Posted by Alex Daly on Aug. 5, 2019
Experiencing menopause symptoms like hot flashes, problems sleeping, pain during sex, urinary problems and irregular periods can be uncomfortable, disruptive and even painful — but the good news is that the right medical treatment can bring menopause relief.
When you reach your 50s (or even your 40s, in some cases), you’ll likely begin to experience menopause — a fluctuation in hormone levels that impacts your menstrual cycle and eventually ends your menstrual periods. Besides affecting your period, menopause can cause several other uncomfortable symptoms.
Fortunately, menopause relief is available with various medications and treatments. Here’s a rundown of what you should know and what to expect when you see a doctor.
What are menopause symptoms?
Menopause symptoms mark the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. In perimenopause, the stage leading up to menopause, you may see signs that menopause is on the horizon. This usually includes missing periods or seeing irregularity in your cycle.
The average age of menopause is between 50 and 52, but menopause can happen earlier or later than that. Some women even start experiencing menopause as early as their 40s.
Although symptoms and their frequency vary for every woman, irregular periods are the most common symptom of perimenopause and menopause. Other symptoms include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
Fortunately, menopause symptoms are temporary, although they can be extremely uncomfortable and a major source of stress while you have them. Also, treatments for most of these symptoms are readily available. A doctor will usually be able to tell you that you’ve entered the menopause transition period by looking at these symptoms and how often they occur for you.
To prepare for your appointment, it can be helpful to keep track of which symptoms you have, how often they occur and when, so consider taking notes every day or keeping a symptom diary. This can help your provider identify any patterns as well as determine what the cause might be. Ahead of your appointment, try to write down information on how often you are getting your periods, how bothersome your symptoms are, as well as what factors you think make them worse. The more information you can bring to your appointment, the better.
Do any prescription medications bring menopause relief?
There are prescription treatments available that can help you manage menopause symptoms. Depending on your overall health, any medical conditions you may have, and what medicines you currently take, your doctor might decide to prescribe one or more of these therapies:
- Hormone therapy. Estrogen therapy is the most effective treatment option for menopause relief for hot flashes, according to the Mayo Clinic, and has been shown to benefit women if treatment is started around the time of menopause. Depending on your own case, your doctor may recommend that you try using estrogen to treat hot flashes, and as an added measure, to help prevent bone loss.
- Low-dose antidepressants. Low-dose antidepressants are another treatment that can decrease menopausal hot flashes and are especially useful for women who can’t take estrogen for health reasons. An antidepressant is also helpful for women who may be experiencing sadness or another mood disorder during the time of menopause.
- Other medications. Your doctor might consider or prescribe other medications that can treat menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, and skin changes.
What other kinds of therapies or adjustments might bring menopause relief?
In addition to prescribed treatments, your doctor may recommend:
- Lifestyle changes or adjustments. Taking great care of yourself and your body can go a long way in bringing menopause relief. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising may help relieve some symptoms. Also, try to avoid certain things that set off your symptoms. These triggers could include certain kinds of drinks, like caffeine and alcohol, as well as stress or a hot environment. Meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can relax tension in your body and help with menopausal symptoms.
- Therapy or behavioral health visits. Therapy or counseling can also help you manage excessive stress, anxiety, depression or mood changes, so be sure to also keep tabs on how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally and share this with your provider.
- Dietary supplements. Your doctor or provider may advise taking some dietary supplements or vitamins that you may need to bolster your health during menopause, such as calcium for bone health. While some people turn to herbs as a menopause treatment, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any herbs since some can interact with medications you’re currently taking. Only a few of the herbs that women tend to try during menopause have been studied for safety and effectiveness, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
With a range of treatments available, your doctor can help you decide the right one for you. Talk with a doctor or provider once you begin to notice menopause symptoms so that you can start working on a treatment plan as soon as possible to minimize any discomfort. It’s important to understand the risks and benefits involved with each treatment. Book an appointment with a provider today.