Menopause Symptoms Untreated for Many Women

Troy Brown

May 07, 2012

May 7, 2012 — Fewer than one third of women with menopause symptoms are receiving treatment for those symptoms, according to a nationally representative survey of 810 women aged 45 to 60 years. Lake Research Partners in Washington, DC, conducted the survey for the Endocrine Society and its Hormone Health Network from April 13 through April 17, 2012. The Endocrine Society released the results of the survey on May 1.

Overall, half of women aged 45 to 60 years report experiencing menopausal symptoms. Of those, 69% reported that their symptoms have a negative effect on their lives (very negative, 7%; somewhat negative, 62%), whereas 31% reported no negative effect on their lives.

The most common symptoms were hot flashes (44%) and interrupted sleep (44%), followed by mood swings (35%), lack of sexual desire (34%), vaginal dryness (27%), and irregular periods (19%).

Many women reported that their symptoms were moderate or severe. Of those women experiencing symptoms, 83% reported moderate or severe lack of sexual desire, 77% reported moderate or severe interrupted sleep, 70% reported moderate or severe hot flashes, 67% reported moderate or severe vaginal dryness, 64% reported moderate or severe irregular periods, and 64% reported moderate or severe mood swings.

Many Symptoms Untreated

Of women who reported symptoms, 72% said they had not received treatment for them and 77% said they had not discussed treatment options with their healthcare provider.

Most women who did talk with their healthcare provider reported they were very (38%) or somewhat (41%) satisfied with the discussions. One fifth (19%) of women reported they were not too satisfied (14%) or not at all satisfied (5%). Three percent of women refused to answer the question.

Most women who received treatment (72%) were either very satisfied (34%) or somewhat satisfied (38%) with their treatment. One fifth (21%) were not too satisfied, and 7% were not at all satisfied with their treatment.

Less than one fourth (23%) of the respondents have considered hormone therapy. That number was a little higher in women currently experiencing menopause, with 27% reporting they have considered hormone therapy.

Just more than half (52%) of the women who responded reported that they are very familiar (18%) or somewhat familiar (34%) with hormone therapy. Almost half (48%) reported that they are not too familiar (25%) or not at all familiar (23%) with hormone therapy.

Almost half (47%) of the respondents reported having a neutral impression of hormone therapy. However, 42% of the respondents reported that they have a very negative (14%) or somewhat negative (28%) impression of hormone therapy, and 11% reported they have a very (4%) or somewhat positive (7%) impression of hormone therapy.

One third (34%) of the women who responded reported they have talked with their primary healthcare provider or obstetrician-gynecologist about hormone therapy, with 42% reporting they have talked with their provider about lifestyle changes that might help and 33% reporting they have discussed other nonhormonal treatment options.

Of those who have received hormone therapy, most have used it to relieve hot flashes (66%) and sleep disturbances, including night sweats (50%), with 31% using it to relieve vaginal dryness or painful intercourse and 30% using it to relieve unspecified symptoms.

Women's Information Needs Unmet

Many women report that they do not know which information to trust when it comes to treatment of menopause symptoms. Almost half reported that the information they receive is often confusing (45%), and that they do not know which information sources to trust (41%). Almost one fourth (24%) say there is too much information to sort through, and 23% say there is not enough information available.

Physician menopause experts associated with the Endocrine Society have developed an online tool to help women and their healthcare providers discuss which hormonal and nonhormonal treatment options are best for them. The Menopause Map is available on the society's Hormone Health Network Web site.

In a press release, the society notes, "The Map was not designed to be a self-diagnostic tool. It's recommended that women print out their results along with a list of provided questions to discuss the best treatment options for them with their provider. Women should revisit this tool to check their symptoms and have a continuous, informed dialogue with their provider."

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