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I’m 66 and suffering awful menopause symptoms – my GP is clueless, please help

NOT knowing where to turn when it comes to health worries can make them feel even more overwhelming.

But you are not alone and alongside your GP, dont forget the wealth of knowledge your pharmacist can offer.

Dr Zoe Williams answers some common questions sent in by readers

As always, Ill try to answer as many questions as I can.

Heres what several readers have asked me this week…

Q I HAVE serious osteoarthritis in my knees how can I ease the pain?

A Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage on the bones becomes rough so the joints dont glide as freely, causing stiffness and pain.

Bone tissue next to the cartilage can be affected and bony growths, called osteophytes, can develop around the joint edges.

The joints and tissues around the joints can also become inflamed (called synovitis).

Affected joints often feel more bulky and are sometimes swollen or have reduced range of movement.

It gets more common as we get older, and by 65 at least half of people develop osteoarthritis.



We dont fully understand why but its more prevalent and tends to be more serious in women.

While it can run in families, it can affect anyone.

Excess body weight puts you at higher risk of developing it, as does previous injury to the joint.

While there is no cure, there are things you can do.

Exercise is a proven long-term treatment for knee arthritis.

By strengthening the muscles that support the knee you can take a lot of pressure off the joint and I have seen patients choose to come off long waiting lists for knee-replacement surgery because of their improvement with exercise.

Spin classes, or walking lengths in a swimming pool, are great examples of impact-free training.

Simple squats like doing a set of ten during an ad break over time can make a big difference.

Some people benefit from physiotherapy, and your GP can help by prescribing painkillers because the pain tends to be worse before it gets better when you first start getting moving.

Small amounts of weight loss can be effective, and some people find that alternative therapies like acupuncture can give positive results.

Capsaicin cream can ease pain the jury is out on food supplements and chondroitin.

They wont be NHS-prescribed but my advice for trying this is to assess your level of pain first, and then again after three months and only continue if its making a difference.

If youve tried a lot of these things, your GP may be able to refer you for a steroid injection as a longer-term painkiller.

For some, the best option will be joint replacement surgery, which usually has very good outcomes, but the risks need to be assessed first.

Remember, although osteoarthritis becomes more common as we get older it shouldnt be viewed as a normal part of ageing because in most cases something can be done to help.

Q I AM getting desperate now.

Im 66 and suffering all the symptoms of the menopause. My GP put me on 2mg Conti Duet.

But after six weeks he stopped this because my breasts were very tender. Then I started to bleed.

I went back but he said its not menopause, Im now struggling with depression.

The night sweats are the worst, I cant concentrate on anything and my relationship is suffering.

There doesnt seem to be anybody in my GPs practice that knows about the menopause.

A Thank you for writing in with this, Im so sorry you are suffering with menopausal symptoms.

Prescribing hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) requires an individualised approach.

So, for each person, its important to weigh up the benefits versus the potential harms.

Some GPs may be reluctant to prescribe HRT to women over the age of 60, for many reasons the main one being that out-of-date guidelines advise doctors against it.

But the most recent NICE guidelines are clear that women can continue to take HRT for as long as the benefits outweigh the risks.

In people over 60, there is a shift in the risk- versus-benefit equation, in that some HRTs offer protective properties but its protection of the heart is deemed to be lost after the age of 60.

As we get older, blood clots are more likely, which can cause a DVT or a stroke, so any increased risk from HRT becomes more important.

Therefore, when prescribing HRT for women over 60, its usually advised they take a low dose of oestrogen and that its given transdermally meaning by a patch or gel on the skin, as its only oestrogen taken orally that increases the risk of blood clots.

Progesterone is required to protect the lining of the womb, unless the person has previously had a hysterectomy, and this is usually given in tablet form.

HRT may cause a variety of side effects, which include breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding.

Vaginal bleeding is quite common within the first three months of treatment.

Side effects do not necessarily mean HRT must be stopped, and they may settle after three months.

Alternative forms of HRT can be tried if there are side effects.

For example, if vaginal bleeding persists, the type of progestogen can be changed, for example from tablets to the Mirena coil.

I suggest asking the reception staff at your GPs practice if there is a doctor or nurse who has a special interest in menopause.

If not, the next step would be to send an e-consult request to the GP you can attach a link to the NICE guidelines and ask them to reconsider prescribing HRT for you.

And if youre still not getting anywhere, you could ask for a referral to a menopause specialist.

Unfortunately, there may be a considerable wait time, so the final option would be to see a menopause specialist privately.

Three of the best weights for use when training at home

Heres some of the best ways to slow down losing muscle

WE start losing muscle from our thirties up to five per cent per decade but strength training can help slow that down.

Whats more, using weights can help you shed unwanted pounds, recover better from injury and maintain bone density. So get lifting.

OPTI VINYL 4KG KETTLEBELL, IN PINK, 12 at Argos

This nifty weight can get you started with kettlebell swings without being too heavy

Ideal for beginners, this nifty, colourful weight is hefty enough to get you started with kettlebell swings, without being too heavy.

This will help build core strength and improve your flexibility.

FITNESS 1KG DUMBBELL TWIN-PACK, IN GREEN, 5.99 at Decathlon

Take these mini-dumbbells on a walk round the park

These mini-dumbbells are small, easy to store and designed with a comfy grip.

Take them on a walk round the park for added bicep curls, or try seated tricep extensions while you watch telly.

BAGS OF RICE/ CANS OF BEANS, from your kitchen cupboard

You might not have to go and buy weights something from your kitchen cupboard could be ideal!

You may not even need to go out and buy weights see what you have to hand.

Tins of beans or bags of rice can double as dumbbells, and bottles of water with handles can replace kettlebells.

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