As the number of postmenopausal women continues to grow — reaching an estimated 1 billion worldwide — patients might believe that doctors have a good sense of the full range of menopausal symptoms and how they affect daily life. But despite numerous studies, detailed information on the full spectrum of menopausal complaints are actually lacking in large randomized trials.
But following a recent study that measured the quality of life in postmenopausal women aged 50-70, researchers hope to more fully identify menopause-related symptoms and help clinicians connect symptomatology with overall health.
The Connection Between Age and Menopausal Symptom Severity
During menopause, women may find themselves experiencing a range of associated symptoms, like hot flashes, night sweats, joint stiffness, vaginal dryness, pain with sexual activity, mood swings and insomnia. Researchers in this study wanted to evaluate the relationship between the severity of these menopausal symptoms and women’s reported quality of life.
The Menopause-Specific Quality of Life-Intervention (MENQOL) questionnaire was given to 932 women enrolled in the Minnesota Green Tea Trial, a larger study that was examining whether green tea extract influences the odds of developing breast cancer. Responses to the questionnaire — which assessed vasomotor, physical, sexual and psychosocial symptoms in the years following menopause — were scored on a range of 1 to 8, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms.
Initial results suggested that menopausal symptoms — including negative mood, more frequent night sweats and hot flashes, decreased memory, and decreased energy — were reported as most severe in women aged 50-55 and steadily declined in severity as age increased.
While it’s clear that menopause can significantly affect the quality of life, there was some maybe good news reported by these women: There were no reported differences among age groups in the Sexual domain of the MENQOL. Women of all age groups suffered a similar decrease.
What These Findings Mean for Postmenopausal Women
While managing menopause-related symptoms might seem like a challenge, there is a silver lining: As women age past their early 50s, the severity of symptoms seems to lessen significantly. But that doesn’t mean menopausal symptoms should be taken lightly, as they can have significant effects on a woman’s daily life.
And because women are remaining active and productive long after menopause, clinicians like us can offer services tailored to this unique population.
The results of this study continue to inform us as we initiate important conversations with postmenopausal patients about their sexual health and the physical and psychosocial changes associated with aging. Many women are reluctant to talk about vaginal dryness, for example, so health providers must be prepared to discuss sensitive issues like these with their patients and cover symptoms and conditions that might not traditionally be associated with menopause. But we’re here to help you.
By implementing these findings into practical solutions, we can offer their clients helpful, actionable advice for postmenopausal women as they manage their expectations and search for treatment options.
If you have questions about menopause or your sexual health, please call our compassionate staff at (202) 293-1000 to make an appointment.