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Menopause and my MS

Susan Crane

Did you know 20 widely recognised symptoms of menopause are also symptoms of MS?

By my count I’ve had 14 MS symptoms and 25 menopause symptoms. What joy!

I was diagnosed the Friday before my fortieth birthday and I got the menopause at 46. I had plenty of perimenopause symptoms before I finally developed menopause.

Denial is not the best medicine

Because I decided that denial was the best medicine, I didn’t do a lot of research right away after I was diagnosed with MS. So it was hard to know if the symptoms I had were related to MS or menopause. I attributed everything to menopause but I didn’t realise they were actually also MS symptoms.

It's ironic that even though three quarters of people with MS are women, we don’t focus on the MS and menopause links more often. That might be because society in general doesn’t talk about menopause a lot. It’s not a great experience in life so this isn’t a surprise.

Do I know too much about menopause?

I happened to work for a women’s health charity (Women's Health Concern) that focused a lot on the menopause, so it’s possible I know too much about menopause!

There are many frustrations about being menopausal and having MS. Although the great thing about menopause is not having periods anymore, sadly Tena pads will now (probably) be required instead of sanitary products).

Hangry, menopause or MS?

Unfortunately, menopause leads to hormone changes and mood swings. Now I don’t know if my ill-tempered mood (especially) before dinner is just being ‘hangry’, my menopause or MS.

I’ve tried to explain this to my family multiple times, but they don’t seem to get it. I think neurologists and/or MS nurses need to warn their female patients over 40 about the menopause and the additional issues it can bring up.

I now take so many supplements for MS and menopause I hardly know which are which. So far I want to believe that the sage leaf, evening primrose oil and turmeric I take help to dissipate my menopause symptoms.

Research on menopause and MS

My hot flushes are over (mostly) but I still have many other menopausal symptoms. Refreshingly, when I just googled MS and menopause quite a few links appeared. There is plenty of speculation about the links and affects between MS and menopause, however, as one paper mentioned, it’s a bit of an “evidence free zone”.

Even so, there have been a few small studies of women with MS and their experience of the menopause. The main take away for me was that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help to improve MS symptoms, but the jury’s still out and we do need more research on it.

Taking HRT is a personal decision and the risks need to be weighed up against the potential improvements. With my family history of breast cancer, I’m not planning to start HRT anytime soon.

Read about HRT and breast cancer on the NHS website

Information is power

Overall, it’s possible to cope with menopause and MS, but one of my mottos can help: information is power.

It’s useful to know what to expect so we can be prepared. I’m still ignorant about aspects of MS, but I know a lot more than I did. I got involved in setting up a local group in London (West Central London) and I was elected to the MS Society Board of Trustees – both in 2018.

Now I know where to go for loads of information about MS and I’m much happier for it.