Severity and duration of menopausal symptoms varies markedly. Eight out of ten women experience symptoms and on average these last four years, with one in ten women experiencing symptoms for up to 12 years. A recent study found that women whose vasomotor symptoms started before the menopause suffered longest, median 11.8 years. Women whose hot flushes and night sweats started after the menopause had symptoms for a median of 3.4 years. Menopausal symptoms can begin years before menstruation ceases. Menopausal status needs to be evaluated based on history and symptoms. Testing for FSH levels should only be considered in women aged 40-45 with menopausal symptoms or those under 40 with suspected early menopause. In general, the benefits of short-term HRT outweigh the risks in the majority of symptomatic women, especially in those under 60. There is no evidence that HRT confers any cardiovascular protection (or harm) or protection against the development of dementia. Cardiovascular risk should be assessed. Women with cardiovascular disease are not necessarily unsuitable for HRT but need their cardiovascular health optimised. In those women with a high risk of venous thromboembolism a thrombophilia screen should be considered (although even if this is negative, it does not absolve risk). If there is a history of arterial disease a lipid profile should be considered. If there is a high risk of breast cancer, counsel the woman with regards to her risk and consider referring for mammography.
Managing debilitating menopausal symptoms. Practitioner. 2016 March