A woman who has gone through the menopause has said that the onset of the condition was so bad she mistakenly believed that she had Alzheimer's.
The menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her fertility begins to recede, she stops having periods and her hormone levels drop.
It is a natural and inevitable part of growing older that can start at various points in a woman’s life.
To mark World Menopause Day, Anna Grainger told The Pat Kenny Show about the struggles she has endured since the onset of the condition.
“Approximately, eight years ago I went to my GP and I was embarrassed,” she recalled.
“I said, ‘Look, there’s something seriously wrong with me. I think I’m starting to get Alzheimer’s.’
“I didn’t know that brain fog, lack of concentration and memory issues were anything to do with menopause - and that should have been my red flag.”
Ms Grainger is a single parent and has always worked multiple jobs. With that in mind, her GP concluded she was most likely suffering from exhaustion and suggested she take things easy for a while.
“Naturally, being a single parent, you have to get on with it,” Ms Grainger said.
“There’s no fall back; there’s nobody to say: ‘You take over, I need a bit of a break.’
“It’s part of the parcel of it.”
However, with hindsight, it was obvious that she was going through the menopause and the only major symptom she did not have was hot flushes.
“When I said I suffered 99% of the symptoms, that was the only symptom that I didn’t have," she said.
When she was eventually and correctly diagnosed, she was put on hormone replacement treatment - a combination of oestrogen and progestogen that alleviates the symptoms.
For Ms Grainger, it is yet another chapter in a battle with her hormones that began decades ago when she started puberty.
“It’s not just the menopausal end, look at the percentage of young girls who go through torture during puberty and pre-puberty,” she said.
“While they might discuss it amongst themselves, they mightn’t know what is extreme and what is normal.
“Back when I was in my teenage years, my school bag was taken away from me to be searched for drugs because my teachers thought: ‘This is ridiculous, this can’t just be the result of menstruation.’
“I would be found collapsed in a heap, doubled over in pain and they were my teenage years.
"And yes, I had to have hormonal replacement therapy to help me cope with most of my life… So, I was put on the pill at a very young age to try and cope with all the issues that affected me and my life.”
The HSE recommends that anyone who is unsure if they have entered the menopause should contact their GP for an assessment.
Main image: Anna Grainger. Picture by: Anna Grainger.