What Is Menopause?
From preteen to midlife, females menstruate virtually every month. By midlife, menopause sets in. When women reach menopause, for the first time since their preteen years, they go for 12 consecutive months without menstruating, and they also can`t become pregnant naturally. Menstruation usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55 but is not restricted to this age range. It comes with uncomfortable symptoms such as weight gain and hot flashes, and would usually not require any medical treatment. Menopause is a natural process that occurs as the ovaries age and produces less reproductive hormones. The body begins to undergo several changes in response to lower levels of progesterone, testosterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). One of the most unusual changes that come with menopause is the loss of active ovarian follicles. Ovarian follicles are the structures that produce and release eggs from the ovary wall, allowing menstruation and fertility.
For most women, their first menopause symptoms begin about four years before their last period and continue until about four years after their last period. There are a few women who experience menopause symptoms for up to a decade before menopause actually occurs, and 1 in 10 women report having menopausal symptoms for 12 years after their last period. The median age for menopause is 51, although African-American and Latina women may reach menopause by 49. Genetics and ovary health are the major determinants of the onset of menopause. Perimenopause is the period when women`s hormones begin to change in preparation for menopause. Premature menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency causes women to reach menopause in their early 40`s. During perimenopause, women may experience irregular menstrual periods, late periods, or may completely skip one or more periods. They may also have heavier or lighter menstrual flow.
Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause
There are no fixed menopause symptoms, really. Every woman’s menopause experience is unique. Some women experience more severe symptoms when menopause occurs suddenly or over a shorter period of time. The severity and duration of menopause may also depend on the health of the ovary, as well as lifestyle choices like smoking.
Here are some of the most common early signs of perimenopause:
- less frequent menstruation
- lighter or heavier periods
- hot flashes
- night sweats
Common menopause symptoms are:
- difficulty concentrating
- memory problems
- vaginal dryness
- weight gain
- reduced libido
- dry skin, mouth, and eyes
- increased urination
- sore or tender breasts
- racing heart
- painful or stiff joints
- reduced bone mass
- less full breasts
- reduced muscle mass
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- hair thinning or loss
- increased hair growth on other areas of the body such as the face, neck, chest, and upper back
Complications of Menopause
After menopause, the risk of certain medical conditions may increase. Here are some of the common complications that women experience after menopause:
- periodontal disease
- urinary incontinence
- heart or blood vessel disease
- vulvovaginal atrophy
- painful intercourse
- slower metabolic function
- sudden emotional changes
In some cases, menopause is induced as a result of injury or surgical removal of the ovaries and related pelvic structures.
Common causes of induced menopause are:
- pelvic radiation
- pelvic injuries that severely damage or destroy the ovaries
- bilateral oophorectomy
- ovarian ablation
How to Diagnose Menopause
You should speak with your healthcare provider if you experience painful or incapacitating menopause symptoms, or you experience the symptoms when you are 45 years or younger. Your doctor may administer the PicoAMH Elisa diagnostic test to determine whether you have entered menopause or perimenopause. Early menopause may come with a higher risk of heart disease, cognitive changes, osteoporosis, fracture, mood changes, vaginal changes, and loss of libido.
Your doctor can also carry out a blood test that will measure the level of certain hormones in the blood, usually FSH, and a form of estrogen called estradiol. Consistently elevated FSH blood levels of 30 mIU/mL or higher, along with an absence of menstruation for a consecutive year is usually confirmation of menopause. Other tests such as saliva tests and over-the-counter (OTC) urine tests can be expensive and unreliable. During perimenopause, FSH and estrogen levels fluctuate often, so some doctors also check medical history, symptoms, and menstrual information.
Certain symptoms may require additional blood tests to help ascertain the presence of underlying conditions. Some of such blood tests are:
- kidney function tests
- thyroid function tests
- blood lipid profile
- liver function tests
- prolactin, testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol tests
Treatment Options for Menopause Symptoms
Women who have severe menopause symptoms may need to opt for treatment. Hormone therapy is an effective treatment for women under the age of 60, or within 10 years of menopause onset. This therapy will help manage vaginal atrophy, osteoporosis, hot flashes, and night sweats. Healthcare providers may administer other medications to treat more specific symptoms like vaginal dryness and hair loss.
Some other medications for menopause symptoms are:
- nonhormonal vaginal moisturizers and lubricants
- low-dose estrogen-based vaginal lubricants
- topical minoxidil hair thinning and loss
- antidandruff shampoos for hair loss
- eflornithine hydrochloride topical cream for unwanted hair growth
- ospemifene for painful intercourse and vaginal dryness
- prophylactic antibiotics for recurrent UTIs
- sleep medications for insomnia
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for hot flashes, anxiety, and depression
- teriparatide, denosumab, calcitonin or raloxifene, or for postmenstrual osteoporosis
7 Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes for Treating Menopause Symptoms
There are various ways to reduce menopause symptoms with lifestyle changes, home remedies, and alternative treatments. Let`s take a quick look at some of them.
Communicating your Needs
Try talking to a therapist or psychologist about any feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, identity changes, isolation, and insomnia. You could also try talking to your family members, friends, or loved ones about mood changes and feelings of anxiety. Spending more time with people you love may help you psychologically at this time.
Keep Cool and Stay Comfortable
Dressing in loose layered clothing will help you manage hot flashes. Keep your bedroom cool, steer clear of heavy blankets at night, and do whatever else will reduce your chances of night sweats. You could also use a waterproof sheet under your bedding to protect your mattress. Carrying a portable fan around will also help cool you down whenever you feel uncomfortable.
Supplement your Diet
Take vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium supplements to help reduce your risk for osteoporosis and improve sleep and energy levels. Your doctor can also advise you on the right supplements for your specific health needs.
Manage your Weight
Reducing your daily calorie intake by 400 to 600 calories is a good way to manage your weight and ease menopause symptoms. You could exercise for 30 minutes every day to lose weight and generally stay fit.
Manage Sleep Issues
Take Care of your Skin
Apply moisturizers daily to reduce skin dryness and avoid excessive bathing or swimming so as not to dry out or irritate your skin.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Now that you Know…
Menopause symptoms can be mild, moderate, and severe, as you have seen. As much as you may want to do without them, it`s impossible to do so; you can only manage the symptoms. Speaking to your health provider immediately you notice these symptoms will go a long way in helping you feel better.