Are you experiencing hot flashes? Sudden mood changes? Having trouble sleeping? You may be nearing menopause. If your symptoms are making you uncomfortable, talk with your VA provider for help managing them.
Menopause is a natural part of aging. It happens when your body naturally stops making hormones and you have not had a menstrual period for 12 months in a row. Symptoms, however, can begin 2 to 8 years before menopause, a time called perimenopause.
Menopause may also happen if you have surgery that includes the removal of your ovaries. This is called “surgical menopause” and is often accompanied by symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Most common symptoms
Your menopausal symptoms may occur occasionally or frequently. The most common symptoms include:
- Irregular periods, which may be longer or shorter, and/or lighter or heavier;
- Hot flashes;
- Night sweats;
- Sleep problems;
- Mood changes;
- Vaginal dryness, which may make sexual activity uncomfortable or painful;
- Changes in interest in sexual activity;
- Weight gain;
- Thinning hair and dry skin;
- Loss of breast/chest fullness;
- Anxiety or depression. These symptoms may be worse for those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Talk to your VA primary care provider if you are experiencing mental health concerns.
Low-dose estrogen therapy for relief from hot flashes and night sweats
If your menopausal symptoms are affecting your daily life, treatments are available at VA. These include non-hormonal medications and hormone therapy. The most effective treatment is hormone therapy, which includes estrogen therapy and progesterone therapy.
Hormone therapy is safe for most people and comes in different forms, such as pills, patches or creams. Low-dose estrogen therapy, usually a pill or a patch, is most effective for relief from hot flashes and night sweats. Progesterone therapy is needed with estrogen therapy if you still have your uterus. It is important to talk with your VA provider about the best options for you.
Other methods of easing menopause symptoms include:
- Using Whole Health practices like yoga, tai chi and mindfulness.
- Eating a nutritious diet and incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine.
- Avoiding triggers of hot flashes, such as drinking hot beverages or alcohol, getting overheated (such as sitting in the hot sun), and eating spicy food.
Some symptoms may slow down after menopause, but your risk for some conditions – vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, heart disease and osteoporosis – may increase.
Additional resources that you may find helpful include:
The symptoms of menopause should not keep you from living your best life. Talk with your VA primary care provider to decide the best treatment options for you.