Diagnosis of menopause
Doctors rarely order diagnostic tests to check for menopause. When 12 months have passed since your last period, you have gone through menopause.
Depending upon your personal health situation, your doctor may order blood tests to check your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen levels. FSH is the hormone that stimulates your ovaries to produce an egg (follicle). Consistently elevated FSH and decreased estrogen (estradiol) levels are signs of menopause.
Ways to relieve menopause symptoms: HRT and beyond
Menopause is normal, so there is no specific treatment for it. Instead, doctors focus on relieving symptoms if they become severe enough to affect your quality of life. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is very effective at easing symptoms, but it isn’t right for every woman. Whether HRT is right for you depends on your personal and family medical history.
Your doctor may recommend other strategies for managing menopause symptoms, including:
- Dress in layers, using small fans, and sipping cold drinks during hot flashes
- Practice relaxation techniques and stress management to combat anxiety and mood changes
- Use medications other than hormones to ease symptoms such as antidepressant medications to help with mood swings
- Use a fan at night to keep your room cool, and have an ice pack handy for night sweats
- Establish a nighttime routine and sleep schedule
- Use vaginal lubricants and moisturizers to ease vaginal dryness
- Get regular sexual stimulation to help maintain vaginal health and blood flow
- Find out your bone density status and work with your doctor to maintain bone health
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight
Treatment of menopause
Our most common treatments for menopause include:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Prescription medication other than hormones
- Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants
- Lifestyle changes
The treatment that is best for you will depend upon the severity of your symptoms, your age, your overall health, and your personal preference.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause
Menopause symptoms are directly related to declining hormone levels. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) relieves symptoms by increasing levels of only estrogen or both estrogen and progestin. HRT is the most effective treatment for hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but it is not recommended for everyone. HRT comes in many forms, including pills, skin patches, creams, and vaginal rings.
Doctors prescribe both estrogen and progestin together. Combination HRT increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Taking estrogen alone increases the risk of uterine cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy, which removes the uterus, can take estrogen without progestin.
HRT increases the risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack slightly in some women. However, the increase in risk is very small compared to women not taking HRT. The risk of blood clots appears to be lower for forms of hormone absorbed through the skin instead of taken by mouth.
Antidepressants and other prescription medications for menopause symptoms
Some antidepressants relieve hot flashes, mood swings, and depression. Prescription medication can also help prevent and treat osteoporosis, a common side effect of menopause. Some antiseizure and blood pressure medications reduce hot flashes and improve sleep.
Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants
Water-soluble lubricants for the vagina can help make sexual intercourse more comfortable. You can also find longer-lasting, over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers.
Supplements for menopause symptoms
Soy and black cohosh are two supplements that are commonly used to treat menopause symptoms. However, these substances have not been studied as extensively as prescription medications. If you take supplements, be sure to let your Dignity Health doctor know because supplements can interact with other treatments.
Lifestyle changes to treat menopause symptoms
Making lifestyle changes, such as the following, may improve menopause symptoms:
- Get regular exercise, eat healthy, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Practice relaxation techniques and stress management.
- Dress in layers, use small fans, and sip cold drinks during hot flashes.
- Establish a night-time routine and sleep schedule.
- Use a fan at night, keep your room cool, and have an ice pack nearby for night sweats.
- Practice Kegel exercises to tone muscles and improve urinary control.
- Get regular sexual stimulation to help maintain vaginal health and blood flow.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly later in the day.
Dignity Health provides caring, personalized menopause treatment in Arizona, California, and Nevada.