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Missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley was battling drinking problems after going through the menopause, investigators revealed yesterday.

As a result, the 45-year-old was considered a ‘high-risk’ missing person after she disappeared while walking her along the River Wyre in St Michael’s on January 27. 

Lancashire Police said the mortgage adviser had ‘in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause’.

The revelation has raised questions about what early menopause is. The condition, which affects one in 20 women, is when periods stop before the age of 45.

MailOnline has explained what early menopause is and its effects.

Missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley (pictured) was battling drinking problems after going through the menopause, investigators revealed yesterday

Missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley (pictured) was battling drinking problems after going through the menopause, investigators revealed yesterday

Menopause marks the point when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. It usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, with 51 being the UK average.

It is a normal part of ageing and occurs because the ovaries stop producing eggs, meaning a woman can no longer get pregnant naturally.

As a result, levels of the hormones the ovaries produce — oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone — drop.

However, if menopause begins before the age of 45, it is known as early menopause. This affects five per cent of women.

Signs can include having irregular menstrual cycles over a few years, spotting between periods and changes in vaginal bleeding. 

Early menopause can increase the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones), heart disease, depression, dementia and Parkinson’s. Sufferers also tend to experience menopause symptoms more severely.

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It can occur due to a chromosome abnormality, autoimmune disease or infection or a side effect of cancer treatments.

But in 90 per cent of cases, the reason for early menopause is unknown.

Those who begin menopause before they are expected to are offered hormonal therapy to replace the hormones that are usually produced. Medics advise patients to take this until at least the average age of the menopause.

Early menopause is different to, premature menopause, which is the term used for when a woman’s periods stop before the age of 40. This affects around one per cent of women.

Nearly nine in 10 women suffer from symptoms related to the menopause, regardless of when ‘the change’ starts.

Mental health symptoms include changes to mood, such as anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem, as well as memory or concentration problems.

Hot flushes, sleeping difficulties, heart palpations, headaches and muscle and joint pain are among the physical symptoms.

As are changes to body shape, weight gain, a reduced sex drive, vaginal dryness and recurrent urinary tract infections.

These can last for months or years and might change over time.

Menopause marks the point when a woman hasn't had a period for 12 months in a row. It is a normal part of ageing and occurs because the ovaries stop producing eggs, meaning a woman can no longer get pregnant naturally. As a result, levels of the hormones the ovaries produce — oestrogen (shown in graphic), progesterone and testosterone — drop

Menopause marks the point when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. It is a normal part of ageing and occurs because the ovaries stop producing eggs, meaning a woman can no longer get pregnant naturally. As a result, levels of the hormones the ovaries produce — oestrogen (shown in graphic), progesterone and testosterone — drop

And symptoms usually start months or years before the menopause officially begins, as periods start to become irregular. This is called the perimenopause.

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The NHS warns that symptoms can have a ‘big impact’, including on relationships, social life, family life and work.

It recommends getting plenty of rest, eating healthily, exercising and doing relaxing activities to cope with mood swings and low mood.

Cognitive behavioural therapy — a type of talking therapy — may also be suggested for those struggling with mental healthy symptoms, sleep problems and hot flushes.

There are also vaginal moisturisers and lubricants to ease dryness.

And hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use jumped by 35 per cent in the last year, as women in their droves have sought prescriptions to ease their symptoms.

Nearly 2million women in England are taking HRT, which are patches, gels or tablets that replenishes the body’s oestrogen levels and are hailed as life-changing.

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