Although there is no definitive test to diagnose the menopause, a blood test to measure the level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) may sometimes be recommended.
Most women do not need treatment for the menopause. However, treatments are available if symptoms are severe and interfere with day-to-day life.
Hormone replacement therapy is one of the main treatments for the menopause. It helps to relieve menopausal symptoms by replacing oestrogen. However on the IBIS II study HRT is not allowed and there is increasing evidence to show that it can be a risk for developing breast cancer
Clonidine is a medicine that was originally designed to treat high blood pressure, but it has been found to reduce hot flushes and night sweats in some menopausal women.
Clonidine can cause unpleasant side effects including dry mouth, drowsiness, depression, constipation and fluid retention. You will need to take it for a trial period of two-four weeks to see whether it will be effective. If your symptoms do not improve during this time, or if you experience side effects, the treatment should be stopped and you should return to your GP.
If you experience vaginal dryness, your GP can prescribe a vaginal lubricant or moisturiser that can be used for as long as you like.
Although they are not licensed for treating hot flushes, there are several antidepressant medications that may be effective, including, venflaxine, fluoxetine, citalopram and paroxetine.
Potential side effects of these antidepressants can include nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, anxiety and sleeping problems.
Medication may not be necessary if you have reached the menopause and you do not have severe symptoms.
Many women find that making changes to their lifestyle and diet e.g. avoid potential triggers, such as spicy food, caffeine, smoking and alcohol, helps improve menopausal symptoms.
Taking regular exercise and avoiding certain foods can help reduce hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. To improve sleep problems, avoid exercising late in the day and go to bed at the same time every night
Some people believe that phyto or plant oestrogens found in certain foods can help. These are oestrogenic compounds that bind with oestrogen receptor sites in the body cells, increasing the total oestrogenic effect. By acting in a similar way to oestrogen, they may help in keeping hormones a little more in balance. A high intake of phytoestrogens is thought to explain why hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms rarely occur in populations consuming a predominantly plant-based diet. To increase your intake of phyto-oestrogens eat more: soya milk and soya flour, linseeds, tofu, tempeh and miso, pumpkins seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.
Visit The British Menopause Society website for more information.
This information was taken with permission from the NHS Choices website.