A doctor will review your order and write you a prescription, if appropriate. This prescription is then forwarded to a pharmacy. The pharmacy will have your medicine delivered to you within one to three working days. Read more about this process here.
Though a natural process for women, menopause can be tough going. It usually takes place from around the age of 45 to 55, with the average age for completing menopause in the UK being 51. When menopause takes place your ovaries no longer produce the hormone oestrogen causing the level of oestrogen in your blood to drop.
Menopause is a slow process and can take anything from 6 months to 13 years. The drop in oestrogen can cause several symptoms if you suffer from these symptoms life can get pretty miserable. Some women go through the menopause at a younger age, this is called premature menopause, we don’t know why premature menopause happens but if you think it is happening to you seek medical advice. Sometimes menopause can be set off by surgery to remove the womb or ovaries. Menopause has three main stages:
- Perimenopause – the time when your periods are becoming less frequent and lighter, lasts on average 4 years.
- Menopause – Once your last period finishes, the average age in the UK is 51.
- Postmenopause – menopause ends one full year after your last period but it usually takes 2 to 5 years for symptoms to stop.
Symptoms that can be brought on by the hormonal changes include:
- hot flushes
- vaginal dryness
- lower sex drive
- night sweats
- difficulty sleeping
- mood changes
- joint pain or stiffness
- frequent urinary tract infections
- reduced muscle mass
- weak bones, osteoporosis
Other problems caused by the lower amounts of oestrogen in your body include an increased risk of certain types of diseases like osteoporosis or heart disease. Maintaining good health and fitness during the menopause is really important to protect yourself as much as possible from any of these diseases. Stay active and fit, eat a healthy, balanced diet, get rid of excess weight, quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake. A healthy lifestyle can also help to ease the common symptoms of menopause. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week to combat sleep issues and low moods. Doing pelvic floor exercises can also strengthen the muscles around the bladder and help with any problems in that area.
Hot flushes are common during the menopause, they can be mild, moderate or severe. If you are experiencing moderate or severe hot flushes you may wish to seek medical help. There are certain lifestyle changes you can make to help alleviate hot flushes:
- avoid spicy foods;
- avoid caffeine and alcohol;
- dress in layers so you can remove a layer when you are feeling hot;
- take cool showers;
There are complementary medicines which some people use to help with the symptoms of the menopause, however, these are not tested in the same way as conventional medicines and you should proceed with caution. The main treatment available for the symptoms of the menopause is Hormone Replacement Therapy. HRT contains either oestrogen alone or a combination of oestrogen and progesterone to help balance the hormones in your blood level and so lessen the symptoms, making your life a little easier to lead.
Hormone Replacement Therapy comes in different guises, you can take a combination of oestrogen and progesterone or just oestrogen. If you have a uterus then it is important to take some form of progesterone to help protect your uterus from the cancer effect of oestrogen. Getting the right type for you can be a process of trial and error.
Hormone Replacement Therapy also comes in different forms – tablets, patches, vaginal creams, gels, pessaries and rings. Not all HRT treatments are taken the same way, some are taken continuously others alter along with your menstrual cycle. One Hormone Replacement Therapy available in the UK is Estraderm MX, an oestrogen-only form of HRT that’s delivered through a transdermal patch. If you want to find out more about this HRT then read on.
What is Estraderm MX?
Estraderm MX is a Hormone Replacement Therapy that is used to help with the symptoms of the menopause and is designed to be used when at least 12 months have passed since your last period. Oestrogen levels drop when you stop having your periods and when this happens you can experience unpleasant symptoms like hot flushes, lower sex drive, vaginal dryness, mood swings and difficulty sleeping. Though many women cope with these symptoms on their own, when they are severe, HRT can help to ease them so you can get back to enjoying life: the levels of oestrogen are balanced by the therapy.
When is Estraderm MX used?
Estraderm MX is used to:
- Combat moderate to severe hot flushes;
- Ward off osteoporosis (some women develop fragile bones after the menopause)
Estraderm MX helps to alleviate the symptoms in postmenopausal women who had their last period at least 12 months ago. Estraderm MX is an oestrogen only HRT that comes in the form of transdermal patches. You will only be prescribed Estraderm MX if your menopause symptoms are seriously affecting your ability to lead a normal life.
How do you use Estraderm MX?
Estraderm MX comes as a transdermal patch, this means it’s a patch that you apply to your skin. The patch contains oestradiol which is released and absorbed through your skin into your bloodstream.
When using the Estraderm MX patch you should wear it all the time.
- Stick the patch on a hairless area of skin below your waist. This could be the buttocks, lower back or hip area.
- Make sure the area has no inflamed, broken or irritated skin. The skin should be clean and dry and free of creams, lotions, oil or powder.
- You will need to apply a new patch twice a week.
- Each time you replace the patch use a different area of skin. You can use the same area again once it has had a week to recover.
- Do not expose the patch to direct sunlight.
The patches come individually sealed, do not open the individual sachet until you are ready to apply the patch. Remove the smaller piece of protective lining and then the larger piece to reveal the sticky area. Try not to touch the sticky area directly and avoid folding the patch before you apply it. Hold the patch in place for 10-20 seconds to ensure it is sticking well.
If the patch is correctly applied it should stay firmly in place while swimming, bathing, exercising etc.
What dosages are there?
As with all medication, you should follow the instructions given to you by your doctor or pharmacist when it comes to dosages. When you start using an Estraderm MX patch you will start with the lowest possible dose. If you do not see a change in the symptoms of menopause your doctor may increase this dose until you do. The drug contained within your patch is a colourless gel that you’ll find on the sticky side of the patch, this is why it’s important not to touch the sticky side when applying the patch.
Estraderm MX comes in four different doses:
- Estraderm MX 25 contains 0.75mg oestradiol releasing around 25mg a day
- Estraderm MX 50 contains 1.5mg oestradiol releasing around 50mg a day
- Estraderm MX 75 contains 2.25mg oestradiol releasing around 75mg a day
- Estraderm MX 100 contains 3.0mg oestradiol releasing around 100mg a day
No matter which patch you have you will need to change it twice a week. Pick 2 days of the week e.g. Monday and Thursday and then change your patch every time those days come around. If your patch comes unstuck do not try to reapply it, simply use a new patch on a different area of the skin. Change your patch on the same day as you normally would, regardless of when you applied the replacement patch. Dispose of your patches carefully (folded together on the sticky side) as they will still contain some medication.
Estraderm MX comes in packs of 8 (1 month’s supply) or 24 (3 month’s supply).
What are the side effects of Estraderm MX?
As with all medicines, Estraderm can come with some side effects, although not everyone will get them. There are some diseases that are reported more often in women using HRT compared to women who aren’t using HRT, these include:
- breast cancer
- abnormal growth or cancer of the lining of the womb
- ovarian cancer
- blood clots in the leg veins or lungs
- memory loss (dementia)
- heart disease
There is also a risk of severe allergic reaction – be on the lookout for shortness of breath, swelling around the face, hives, wheezing, difficulty breathing – seek urgent medical assistance if you experience any of these. Very common side effects, affecting more than 1 in 10 people include
- itching, redness or pain around the patch site;
- tender, painful or swollen breasts;
- breakthrough bleeding.
Common side effects, affecting 1 in 10 are:
- tummy pain or bloating
Uncommon side effects, affecting up to 1 in 100 are:
- Breast cancer
Other rarer side effects include:
- changes to your weight
- fluid retention
- blood clots
- varicose veins
- high blood pressure
- rashes or itching over large areas of the skin
- changes in skin pigmentation
- dry eyes
- contact lens discomfort
You may also experience
- mood swings
- changes in your sex drive
- hair loss
- irregular heavy bleeding
- menstrual cramps
- non-cancerous breast lumps
When shouldn’t you use Estraderm MX?
There are certain conditions when you should not take Estraderm MX as it can cause further complications or worsen a condition you already have. Avoid taking Estraderm MX if you have any of the following:
- breast cancer (or have ever had breast cancer)
- cancer which is sensitive to oestrogens (cancer of the womb lining)
- unexplained vaginal bleeding
- excessive thickening of the womb lining
- a blood clot in a vein (or have ever had one)
- if you’ve ever had a heart attack, stroke or angina
- liver disease (or have ever had it)
If any of the above appear for the first time while taking Estraderm MX you should stop using it immediately and seek medical assistance. You shouldn’t take Estraderm MX if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. Avoid Estraderm MX if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. You will need to get frequent check-ups with your doctor whilst using Estraderm MX if you have ever had any of the following:
- growth of womb lining outside your womb or excessive growth in the womb lining
- high blood pressure
- kidney disease
- fluid retention
- gallbladder disease
- severe headaches
- high levels of fat in your blood
- a disease which affects your immune system
Does Estraderm MX interact with other medications?
Always talk to your doctor about any other medication you are taking, including supplements and herbal medicines. Some medicines may affect how Estraderm MX works and could cause irregular bleeding; these include:
- medicines for epilepsy;
- medicines for tuberculosis;
- medicines for HIV infections;
- herbal remedies containing St John’s Wort;
- anti-infective medicines.
Where can I buy Estraderm MX?
You can buy Estraderm MX from any pharmacy, including an online pharmacy.
Can I get Estraderm MX without a prescription?
You cannot get Estraderm MX without a prescription as you need to consult with a doctor first.
Brazier, Yvette What you need to know about HRT (May 2017) Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/181726.php
Irani, Shirin Consultant Gynaecologist Menopause (2019) Retrieved from https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/womens-health/menopause
NHS UK Hormone Replacement Therapy (July 2016) Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt/
NHS UK Menopause Treatment (August 2018) Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/treatment/
Novartis Pharmaceuticals (April 2016) Retrieved from https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/files/pil.5840.pdf