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Menopause symptoms

What are the symptoms of the menopause?

Not all women experience symptoms with the onset of the menopause. If menopausal symptoms occur, they may include:

Physical symptoms

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Irregular periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Need to urinate more frequently
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Brittle nails
  • Changes in odour
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Bone fractures due to osteoporosis
  • Breast pain
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Burning tongue
  • Electric shocks
  • Digestive problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Itchy skin
  • Tingling extremities

Emotional symptoms

  • Loss of libido
  • Increased anxiety or irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Memory lapses
  • Depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Difficulty concentrating

Not everyone experiences symptoms. Women react to menopause in different ways. You may sail through without any problems or with only mild symptoms or you may have severe symptoms that affect your quality of life.

One survey of nearly 7,000 women aged 45 to 54 found that 84% had at least one common menopausal symptom, such as hot flushes or a dry vagina. But for more than 50% of the women, the symptoms weren't a problem.

Ways to relieve symptoms:

Lifestyle changes:

  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Stay cool
  • Run wrists under cold water
  • Layer clothing
  • Have a fan and a cold drink by your bed
  • Use cotton bed sheets
  • Chill your pillows
  • Reduce or avoid caffeine and spicy foods

Prescription medicines:

  • Oestrogen with/without progesterone hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Tibolone
  • Clonidine
  • Vaginal lubricants
  • Antidepressants

Alternative therapies:

  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Yoga
  • Pelvic floor exercises

Herbal or botanical therapies:

Some traditional herbal remedies are registered with the regulator MHRA for treating the symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep, temporary mood changes, irritability, slightly low mood and mild anxiety.

Registered traditional herbal products under the THR scheme include black cohosh, St John's wort and red peony. Registration doesn't mean a herbal remedy has been tested and proven to work, but it does confirm traditional use and that products are made to good quality standards.

The MHRA reminds people about the risk of liver problems associated with black cohosh. This herbal remedy shouldn’t be used by people with a history of liver conditions.

Seek medical advice before considering any herbal remedies as they may interfere with other treatments.

Seek medical advice about the menopause if:

  • You experience bleeding again after the menopause. Among other possibilities, bleeding may be a sign of uterine cancer, so you should seek medical advice.
  • Your menopause symptoms are causing problems or interfering with your daily life. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help relieve your symptoms.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 14, 2013

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