Menopause isn't a medical condition, it's just a natural part of ageing for women and it doesn't require a 'diagnosis' as such. In this article we explain how doctors identify menopause and we've broken it down by age, as this plays a big part in how doctors assess menopause.
If you are over 45 years old and have menopausal symptoms...
First, your doctor will ask for a complete medical history. This includes family history and current symptoms. This information will be combined with your age to determine if you are experiencing symptoms that could be considered menopausal.
You can expect the medical history to include:
- Current symptoms: There are 34 symptoms that you might experience during your menopause
- Major diseases in the family
- Discussion on changes in periods (frequency, flow)
- History of gynaecological issues (including previous infections, operations and children).
- Behaviours that could impact your health (including smoking, drinking and weight)
- Blood pressure
- Long-term diseases such as osteoporosis or heart disease are associated with increased risk factors
- If you have specific symptoms, they will only perform a physical exam on your breasts or abdomen.
If you experience typical symptoms of menopause and your doctor doesn't suspect any other causes, they will most likely conclude that you are menopausal. Official 'diagnosis" does not require blood tests.
If you are between 40-45 and have menopausal symptoms...
The approach for younger women will be more straightforward. Your current symptoms and changes in your periods will be the main factors that help to determine your menopause. If you are younger, your doctor may order blood tests to confirm hormonal changes. However, this is not always the case. The blood test for Follicle stimulating Hormone (FSH) would be ordered if requested. FSH, a hormone that your body produces and which increases as you get closer to menopause, is what the blood test would be for. A rise in FSH levels could indicate a problem. Your doctor might also recommend that you test your thyroid function. This is because thyroid function can affect your periods. However, a doctor may perform a blood test based on your family history and symptoms.
If you're under 40 years old and have menopausal symptoms,
A blood test will be done by the doctor to determine if you have FSH. This is used to detect premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). To confirm your levels, they will run it twice in a 6-8 week period. This is because hormone levels can fluctuate during menopause. Your symptoms may be caused by hormonal changes, which are common as you get closer to menopause.
Doctors will likely run additional blood tests if you have symptoms that are not related to your age. They will likely order a thyroid test, complete blood count, and an examination for autoimmune antibodies.
Your doctor should discuss the various treatment options if you suspect that you are experiencing menopause. Talking to your doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as well as other lifestyle-based or Nonhormonal solutions to manage symptoms should be part of this discussion.
These slightly different approaches may be due to the fact that early menopause Menopause below 40 or POI can pose greater long-term health risks. To reduce the longer-term risks, your doctor must be certain that you are experiencing menopause.