Menopause is a normal part of aging and every woman goes through it. It can't be prevented and normally doesn't require treatment. However, some symptoms of menopause can be lessened or perhaps even eliminated with treatment. Likewise, the risk of disorders or diseases associated with menopause, such as osteoporosis and heart disease, may benefit from treatment.
Physicians used to routinely prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen and, sometimes, progesterone to treat the general symptoms of menopause. However, this is no longer routine after several large studies showed that HRT can raise the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots.1
If you are having trouble with menopause symptoms, talk to your health care provider about the benefits and risks of what is now called menopausal hormone therapy (MHT).2 According to the National Institute on Aging, only women at low risk for stroke, heart disease, blood clots, and breast cancer are considered candidates for MHT—and only those who have entered menopause recently. MHT can be given in the forms of pills, creams, or skin patches. Most medical professionals recommend an individualized MHT plan for each woman based on the age of menopause. It is important to know that MHT may cause side effects, such as bleeding, bloating, breast tenderness or enlargement, headaches, mood changes, and nausea.3
The loss of estrogen may also be associated with changes in cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes or are overweight, your health care provider may prescribe dietary changes or drugs to reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
There are a variety of options available to help treat the symptoms of menopause. The National Institute on Aging provides detailed information on some treatments for menopause. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Service's Office on Women's Health also provides information about menopause treatments. The sections below provide some additional information.
Because bone loss increases in the first two years after menopause, health care providers may order a bone density test, such as a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. If you have osteoporosis or are at risk for it, your health care provider may prescribe bone-strengthening drugs or supplements to help prevent future bone loss and fractures.
Medications commonly prescribed to treat osteoporosis include:3
There are also many things you can do as part of a healthy lifestyle to help prevent bone loss:3
Several prescription drugs are available to relieve hot flashes and night sweats:
There are also several practical things you can do on a daily basis to relieve these symptoms:
While irregular or missed periods are normal during perimenopause or the menopausal transition, women with very heavy bleeding or periods close together may want to talk to a health care provider about regulating their periods with one of the following:
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