Your Guide to Menopause
Are There Any Tests for Menopause? continued...
Your doctor can check your blood for follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). The levels will jump as your ovaries begin to shut down. As your estrogen levels fall, you’ll notice hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and less lubrication during sex.
The tissue in and around your vagina will thin as estrogen drops, too. The only way to check for this is through a Pap-like smear, but it’s rarely done. As this happens, you might have urinary incontinence, painful sex, a low sex drive, and vaginal itching.
How Can I Treat the Symptoms?
There are a bunch of ways.
Lifestyle changes. A healthy diet and regular exercise program will help manage your symptoms and boost your health. This is a great time to finally kick any old, unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking too much alcohol. To help with hot flashes, dress lightly and in layers. Avoid triggers like caffeine and spicy foods. And if you stay sexually active, that may help preserve your vaginal lining.
Prescription medication for hot flashes. If you still have your uterus, your doctor might prescribe treatment with estrogen and progesterone. This is called combination hormone therapy (HT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It helps with hot flashes and night sweats, and it may help prevent osteoporosis. If you don’t have a uterus, you might get estrogen alone.
Hormone therapy isn’t for everyone. Don’t take it if you've ever had breast cancer, uterine or "endometrial" cancer, blood clots, liver disease, or a stroke. Also don't take it if you might be pregnant or you have undiagnosed vaginal bleeding.
If you can't or don't want to take hormones, other medications can ease symptoms. They include antidepressants, antiseizure drugs, or blood pressure medications to help with hot flashes and mood swings.
Prescription and OTC medication for vaginal dryness and sleep problems. You can try topical estrogen, lubricants, and non-estrogen prescriptions for dryness and painful sex. OTC or prescription sleep aids can help if you have trouble falling asleep.
Nontraditional options. There are many unproven methods for treating menopause symptoms. Some work better than others. Acupuncture, meditation, and relaxation techniques are harmless ways to ease the stress of menopause, and some people believe they help. Many women also try herbal or natural remedies. Talk to a doctor before trying any of these.