The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published its first set of guidelines for the treatment of menopause, stressing that women should no longer have to suffer in silence.

An estimated 1.5 million women - around 80% of those going through menopause - are having to grapple with symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, headaches and joint and muscle pain, and yet, while these symptoms can “severely affect” a woman’s life, many don’t get the help they need.

NICE is hoping to address this by providing recommendations on the support, information and treatments available for menopausal symptoms. Its guideline covers diagnosis, available drug and non-drug treatments, and the risks and benefits of HRT, which it says can be an effective approach for addressing many associated symptoms.

The guidance is also underpinned by recommendations that call for women to have the right to be involved in discussions and make informed decisions about their care. To that end, doctors must ensure they explain the stages of menopause, common symptoms, lifestyle changes to boost health and wellbeing, benefits/risks of treatment and the long-term health implications of menopause, the Institute stressed.

“The effects of menopause are often misunderstood and underestimated - it can impact on health significantly in both the long term and short term,” said Imogen Shaw, a GP with special interest in gynaecology and member of the NICE guideline development group. “I really hope these guidelines will stimulate interest from women in exploring how they can best manage their menopausal years”.