Dr Ginni Mansberg, general practitioner and health commentator, works closely with Compare the Market to shine a light on health issues and help patients make informed choices about their care.
When I graduated from medicine, as far as I knew, there was one symptom of menopause and that was hot flushes.
At last count, the International Menopause Society now lists 42 different symptoms!
We now know that menopause causes everything from aches and pains to bladder and vaginal issues, mental health issues, brain fog, itchy skin, dry eyes and even tooth decay.
And just like mental health shed its taboo status, menopause is definitely having its “moment” this year. No longer a no go – it’s something we can’t stop talking about.
There’s also greater awareness of perimenopause, which is the transition phase experienced by most women.
As a doctor, I’m super excited to see more women taking a proactive approach to tackling their health challenges.
But just like any hot topic, there’s an industry ready to exploit it. It’s causing confusion and creating hurdles for women who could benefit from proven treatments.
All of a sudden, we are being bombarded with menopause-specific vitamin packages, skincare offerings and even women’s retreats.
Women are being sold stuff that they definitely don’t need. Are there really menopause-specific vitamins? No. What about menopause-specific skincare? No.
The latest medical review suggests that herbal supplements only work as a placebo.
So do you need to be spending all your money with something with an “M” in front of it? Absolutely not.
So what really works?
Most of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are caused by falling hormones.
If you are experiencing significant symptoms, Hormone Replacement Therapy can help you get the balance back that you might have had as a pre-menopausal woman.
It works in the case of hot flashes – which is the most studied symptom – in about 96% of cases.
We also know it works for depression, aches and joint pains.
Yet a lot of women are not keen on hormone replacement therapy, often out of fear.
Sometimes it’s just not suitable for the patient, for example, if you have had breast cancer.
In those cases, we have to target each symptom separately. Have a conversation with your doctor about what treatments might work best for you.
The little-known symptoms with a costly impact
Another uncomfortable consequence of oestrogen loss can be a loss of moisture that leads to dry eye and dry mouth.
We know that inflammation of the gums is linked to a whole lot of chronic diseases, including heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
The bacteria found in plaque on your teeth has even been linked to dementia, which we know is the leading cause of death in women in Australia.
Given the risk, I recommend women over the age of 40 see an optometrist every two years and a dentist every six months.
Getting an appropriate private health insurance extras policy is one way you can reduce out-of-pocket costs for dental appointments and prescription glasses, just be sure to shop around to find a policy that offers good value for your needs.
There are a range of different services that can be included on a private health insurance extras policy, such as physio, chiropractic, podiatry, psychology and more, which could be beneficial depending on your circumstances.
You may also wish to combine your extras policy with private hospital insurance for greater peace of mind.
Moving the conversation forward
Despite greater awareness, we still have a long way to go when it comes to improving the lives of women during menopause.
What can we do to better support our loved ones? How can we create more flexible, understanding work environments? What can be done to protect their mental health?
For now, keep having conversations, do some research and be a positive influence in your circles.
The wheels are in motion for positive change.