The signs of menopause a GP sees most in her surgery



Article By: Natalie Cornish

'The average time frame a person can experience "menopausal symptoms" is around seven years, but there is a whole spectrum,' she explained.



Working out whether a woman is in perimenopause or menopause isn't as straightforward as you might think.

Dr Narendra Pisal, consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaecology, told medical site Net Doctor that menopause literally means 'end of menstrual cycle', occurring when the body stops producing female sex hormones from the ovaries.

It's pre-cursed by the perimenopause – when periods become irregular and symptoms start – which can last between six months and 10 years. Dr Cat Hyatt, a Dorset-based GP, recently told Red that the menopause 'lasts much longer than people expect'.

'The average time frame a person can experience "menopausal symptoms" is around seven years, but there is a whole spectrum,' she explained.

Although the average age of menopause in the UK is 51, when and how a woman goes through perimenopause and menopause is very individual. Ethnicity and genetics play their part on the timing, length and symptoms each of us will experience.

While there is no single signifier, there are some common symptoms, including hot flushes, brain fog and insomnia, that doctors use to diagnose perimenopause or menopause.

WHAT ARE THE 34 SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE?
The 34 symptoms of menopause is based on research by doctors into the most common and recognisable symptoms of menopause. They are:

Hot flushes
Night sweats
Irregular periods
Mood swings
Vaginal dryness
Low libido
Headaches
Breast soreness
Burning mouth
Joint pain
Digestive problems
Electric shock
Muscle tension
Gum problems
Tingling extremities
Itchy skin
Fatigue
Unexplained anxiety and feelings of unease
Disrupted sleep
Hair thinning or hair loss
Memory lapses
Difficulty concentrating, also know as brain fog
Weight gain
Bloating
Difficulty balancing
Stress incontinence
Brittle nails
Allergies
Irregular heartbeat
Body odour and increased sweating
Irritability
Depression
Panic disorder
An increased risk of Osteoporosis
But it's important to note that the list is not exhaustive. 'There are at least 34 different menopause symptoms, but a woman’s experience with all these varies from person to person,' Dr Hyatt says.

Here, she outlines the symptoms of menopause she sees most in her surgery, the treatment she prescribes and how to get help if you're struggling with perimenopause or menopause symptoms.

THE COMMON SIGNS OF MENOPAUSE A GP SEES MOST
'In terms of the most common symptoms I see day-to-day in my clinic, women reporting menstrual irregularities, or hot flushes and night sweats can frequently appear on my triage list.

'This can include women experiencing a change to periods, not only how often they happen but how heavy or painful they can be. In other women, the periods can just stop completely! A degree of menstrual irregularity can be anticipated at this stage but it is always important to explore spotting between periods with a GP.

'It is also very common for me to speak to women experiencing some psychological changes during this time, including insomnia, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and low mood and anxiety. This combined with sexual changes which often happen in menopause – including vaginal dryness or lack of libido – can impact on relationships and sense of self worth. The weight gain and joint pains which can also happen to some women in menopause can further take women away from their sense of self and what they want to be doing day to day.'

WHAT IS THE BEST TREATMENT FOR MENOPAUSE?
'In terms of treatment, the first thing to say is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for every women. Every women is different and your menopause journey is likely to be reflective of that.

'Treatment can include a mixture of HRT, diet or lifestyle changes, psychological interventions like CBT or anti-depressant medications, or complementary therapies.

'These treatments can be done together, or in isolation, and some women do not require or want any intervention at all.'

WHAT HELPS WITH MENOPAUSE?
'My key advice for any of my patients who are struggling with menopausal symptoms is that this sense of overwhelm can be completely normal. Your body is undergoing a huge hormonal change, which will have physical and psychological impacts on you at a time of your life when your are often juggling multiple demands.

'Empowering yourself by learning more about the menopause (and educating those around you!), speaking to friends and family about your experience and involving your GP early on will help support you through your journey. We are here to help!'



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