Women are designed to go through menopause, which means experiencing various symptoms, some to a higher degree than others. The symptoms of menopause are due to a low production of estrogen and progesterone, as well as testosterone. Estrogen regulates the menses cycle, which affects the reproductive system, the urinary tract, heart and blood vessels, the bones, the skin, hair, pelvic muscles and the brain. In other words, women can experience the symptoms of menopause throughout their entire body, from head to toe. Some common symptoms of menopause can include the following:
During menopause, many woman will experience short, absence, or irregular periods. Hormonal imbalance, causes skipped periods and spotting in between what were once regular cycles. The culprits are decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone. Periods can come early or late, it can be light or heavy, or the flow can be short or it seems to go on forever.
Hot flashes are the most common complaint of menopausal women. Hot flashes are a sudden release of heat, usually experienced on the upper part of the body, but can also be felt all over the body. Women feel sweaty and parts of the body, like the face and neck, generally turn flushed. A hot flash lasts between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. They do lessen with time, but a hot flash can be experienced for a year or two after the last menstrual period. No, not all women experience hot flashes, but many more do! For some women, estrogen production reduces at a slower rate, therefore their hot flashes are lessened. But for those women who experience constant hot flashes, the ovaries stop producing estrogen quickly, making these women a part of the 75% to 85%, who suffer daily with hot flashes during menopause.
The weakened sex hormones of estrogen and progesterone, affects the thin coating of the vaginal walls. Signs of vaginal dryness includes itching, stinging, or burning around the vaginal opening. This condition can also make intercourse a painful experience. Vaginal dryness can also cause light bleeding and women experience a sensation of having to urinate often. In extreme cases called “atrophy,” of the vagina, it causes the vagina to actually become smaller in width and length. These changes cause emotional distress for the woman and her partner. Vaginal changes are a common change due to the natural drop in estrogen during menopause.
Insomnia and Night Sweats:
Seven or eight hours of sleep each night can become a distant memory for women going through menopause. Menopause causes some women the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep. Night sweats are medically known as “sleep hyperhidrosis,” which occurs during sleep times. Insomnia is the result of this disorder, where sweats can range from mild to severe.
Urinary Tract Infections:
Women can experience an increase in the sudden onset of urinary tract infections during menopause. Due to the decrease of sexual hormone levels, the urinary tract is suspect to infections. Infections in the urinary tract also causes a woman to feel like they need to urinate or they can experience painful urination. Infections and urinary incontinence during menopause is due to the tissue walls in the vagina and urethra to lose its elasticity and its thick coating, which turns thin. Also, the pelvic muscles become weakened.
Decreased Sexual Drive:
Due to the physiological changes taking place in the body during menopause, some women can experience a decrease in their sexual desires. The reduction in estrogen productions, causes lessened vaginal lubrication or delayed clitoral response time or an absence of orgasmic response.
Depression and Mood Swings:
The erratic fluctuations in hormone production, causes the brain to have the body go into a depression whereby women begin to experience various mood swings. The depression and mood sways can go from an extreme high to severe lows, where one minute you're up and the next minute, you're crying your eyes out, all within a short time frame. Women who experience feeling low or blue, are not responsible for this chemical change, it is a common, yet unnatural occurrence during the menopausal years. Doctors call chronic and serious mood changes, a psychological disorder. Mood regulating neurotransmitters are affected by the decrease in sexual hormone production. Depression and changes in mood, also causes fatigue.
Skin and Hair Changes:
Aging brings about changes in our skin and hair, naturally. However, with menopause, it seems that these changes are sped up. Due to the loss of fatty tissue and collagen, during menopause, this will make a woman's skin drier and thinner. The skin's epidermal elasticity and moisture decreases, causing itching, dryness, and roughness of the skin. The hair follicles begin to look dull and to thin out. Collagen is responsible for keeping our skin fresh and moisturized, so during menopause, our body doesn't produce collagen in the abundance it normally does. Thus, our skin and hair gets thinner, flakier, and dry. Some women experience “pruritus,” where their skin actually becomes quite itchy, causing embarrassing moments.
Women begin to complain about memory loss during perimenopause, as well as full blown menopause. Many believe it to be a temporary forgetfulness, such as misplacing car keys or other trivial events. As time goes on, memory loss symptoms becomes more apparent. Even though it doesn't make things any better, but this too is a normal symptom of menopause, due to lower levels of estrogen.
Weight gain during menopause, generally starts around the waist, but it is a change in hormone levels during menopause. Gaining weight during menopause is a common event, where fat cells, begin to redistribute itself and it's not because a menopausal woman's eating habits change. There are fewer circulating estrogen hormones, which lead the body to hold onto more fat cells. Low testosterone levels also lead to a slower metabolic rate, whereby women going through menopause will gain weight by metabolic default.