Can menopause be treated?
Menopause is a natural process that your body goes through. In some cases, you may not need any treatment for menopause. When treatment for menopause is discussed, it’s about treating the symptoms of menopause that disrupt your life. There are many different types of treatments for the symptoms of menopause. The main types of treatment for menopause are:
It is important to talk to your healthcare provider while you are going through menopause to craft a treatment plan that works for you. Every person is different and has unique needs.
What is hormone therapy?
During menopause, your body goes through major hormonal changes, decreasing the amount of hormones it makes — particularly estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries. When your ovaries no longer make enough estrogen and progesterone, hormone therapy can be used as a supplement. Hormone therapy boosts your hormone levels and can help relieve some symptoms of menopause. It’s also used as a preventative measure for osteoporosis.
There are two main types of hormone therapy:
- Estrogen therapy (ET): In this treatment, estrogen is taken alone. It’s typically prescribed in a low dose and can be taken as a pill or patch. ET can also be given to you as a cream, vaginal ring, gel or spray. This type of treatment is used after a hysterectomy. Estrogen alone can’t be used if a woman still has a uterus.
- Estrogen Progesterone/Progestin Hormone Therapy (EPT): This treatment is also called combination therapy because it uses doses of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is available in its natural form, or also as a progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone). This type of hormone therapy is used if you still have your uterus.
Hormone therapy can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause, including:
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Irritability and mood swings.
- Hair loss.
Are there any risks related to hormone therapy?
Like most prescribed medications, there are risks for hormone therapy. Some known health risks include:
- Endometrial cancer (only increased if you still have your uterus and are not taking progestin together with the estrogen).
- Gallstones and gallbladder issues.
- Blood clots.
Going on hormone therapy is an individualized decision. Discuss all past medical conditions and your family history with your healthcare provider to understand the risks versus benefits of hormone therapy for you.
What are non-hormonal therapies for menopause?
Though hormone therapy is a very effective method for relieving menopause symptoms, it’s not the perfect treatment for everyone. Non-hormonal treatments include changes to your diet, lifestyle and using over-the-counter options. These treatments are often good options for women who have other medical conditions or have recently been treated for breast cancer. The main non-hormonal treatments that your provider may recommend include:
- Changing your diet.
- Avoiding triggers to hot flashes.
- Prescription medications, which have been shown to help.
Sometimes changing your diet can help relieve menopause symptoms. Limiting the amount of caffeine you consume every day and cutting back on spicy foods can make your hot flashes less severe. You can also add foods that contain plant estrogen into your diet. Plant estrogen (isoflavones) isn’t a replacement for the estrogen made in your body before menopause. Foods to try include:
Avoiding triggers to hot flashes
Certain things in your daily life could be triggers for hot flashes. To help relieve your symptoms, try and identify these triggers and work around them. This could include keeping your bedroom cool at night, wearing layers of clothing, or quitting smoking. Weight loss can also help with hot flashes.
Working out can be difficult if you are dealing with hot flashes, but exercising can help relieve several other symptoms of menopause. Exercise can help you sleep through the night and is recommended if you have insomnia. Calm, tranquil types of exercise like yoga can also help with your mood and relieve any fears or anxiety you may be feeling.
Joining support groups
Talking to other women who are also going through menopause can be a great relief for many. Joining a support group can not only give you an outlet for the many emotions running through your head, but also help you answer questions you may not even know you have.
Can my doctor prescribe non-hormonal medications?
There are several non-hormonal medications that your doctor can prescribe. These are typically used to treat hot flashes. Speak to your doctor about what specific non-hormonal medications might work best for you.