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Managing Menopause: What can you do to relieve symptoms?

April 01, 2018

Many women think they can’t do anything about their menopause symptoms. However, there are many treatment options available to help you find relief.

What is menopause? According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), menopause can be determined to have occurred when a woman has not had a menstrual period for one year. On average, this occurs around the age of 51.

Before women reach menopause, most will begin to undergo physiological changes and symptoms. “These include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness and discomfort,” says Steven Crawford, MD, and OB-GYN with Advanced Women’s Healthcare. “This stage is often referred to as perimenopause or—more recently—the menopausal transition.” During this time, a woman’s ovaries produce less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

What treatments are available? According to Dr. Crawford, menopausal symptoms are most effectively treated with hormones, referred to as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although estrogen or estrogen combined with progesterone is referenced by the ACOG as the most effective therapy, HRT may not be the best option for every woman, depending on her health history.

There are some risks of hormone replacement therapy, including blood clots and increased risk of breast cancer. In average-risk women, the chances of these complications are low. Health risks of hormone replacement therapy are higher in women who have already had cancer or have a family history of cancer.

Some nonhormonal options for treating menopause include the use of antidepressants or other medications. Other recommendations include avoiding hot-flash triggers, such as caffeine and alcohol.

“There are treatment options to find relief,” says Dr. Crawford, “so be sure you ask your provider!” Together, you and your healthcare provider can determine which strategy and individualized treatment plan is right for you.

Find your healthcare provider at ketteringhealth.org/obgyn