It is still unclear how PCOS changes as women age, especially as they enter their 30s and 40s. For some women, PCOS-related symptoms improve significantly as they get older. For others, the symptoms only worsen with age. Scientific research has not yet determined how factors such as weight loss, previous treatment with fertility drugs, or previous pregnancies or miscarriages affect women with PCOS over the course of their lives.
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycle ends. This usually occurs around age 45 to 50. Symptoms of menopause include irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decline in sexual interest, mood changes, and night sweats. Menopause is usually determined after a woman has not had a period for one year or more. PCOS in menopausal women can go unnoticed since they always have irregular periods and often go long periods of time without menstruating at all.
Many women with PCOS believe that, since they have irregular periods, they won’t go through menopause. However, this is not the case. It is important for menopausal women to seek treatment for both PCOS and menopausal symptoms.
Many women will take hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms and to decrease the risk of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and colon cancer. Because menopause causes a significant decrease in estrogen, many physicians prescribe estrogen. It can be given as a pill, as an implant (under the skin), or as a topical gel or patch. Some women, especially those with an intact uterus, are also given progesterone in addition to the estrogen. This helps protect the uterine lining against potentially harmful tissue changes, which can lead to endometrial cancer. The progesterone usually causes bleeding, similar to normal menstruation.