Menopause is the point at which a woman stops menstruating, wrote About.com. Perimenopause is the time from just before menopause until the diagnosis is made, when a woman has gone 12 months without a period.
Menopause can happen in a woman’s 40s or 50s, but the average age in the United States is 51, said Mayo Clinic.
Menopause happens because as women age, their ovaries begin to shut down. Eventually they stop producing estrogen and other hormones, stated About.com. When the amount of hormones decrease, a woman’s body reacts in different ways.
The tendency to experience different menopausal symptoms is often inherited from the mother.
National Institute on Aging (NIA) wrote that some menopausal symptoms can last for months or years. Here are the most common symptoms.
Menstrual cycle changes is often the first sign of menopause, wrote About.com.
Hot flashes may begin, thanks to changing estrogen levels. NIA said a hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat. Your face and neck become flushed. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow.
Flashes can be very mild or strong enough to awaken you (called night sweats). Most hot flashes last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes.
Medical News Today reported that sleeping problems can be another symptom. They are generally caused by night sweats, but not always.
UCLA Health System (UCLA) said lower androgen levels (male hormones) can also contribute to the loss of sex drive.
Vaginal dryness, itching and/or discomfort may be another symptom, said Medical News Today. Some women may experience pain during sex due to the thinning and shrinking of tissues, and decreased lubrication, caused by a lack of estrogen.
Some women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections, or they have to urinate more frequently, wrote Medical News Today.
Mayo Clinic added that weight gain, thinning hair and dry skin, trouble concentrating and loss of breast fullness are also symptoms.
Menopause requires no medical treatment. Rather, treatments focus on relieving symptoms.
One treatment is HRT (hormone replacement therapy). It is very effective for many menopausal symptoms, including vaginal dryness, vaginal itching, vaginal discomfort, urinary problems, hot flashes and night sweats, wrote Medical News Today. HRT helps increase a woman's level of estrogen.
Vaginal dryness can be relieved by vaginal estrogen.
However, cautioned UCLA, it is recommended to use the lowest possible dose for the shortest duration possible to reduce the risks of breast cancer, blood clots, myocardial infarction and stroke.
Medical News Today wrote that low-dose antidepressants, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and some seizure and high blood pressure medications have been shown to decrease menopausal hot flashes.
It’s important to remember that menopause is a natural process, said About.com. It may bring bothersome or distressful symptoms, but generally these are temporary and treatable.
Bracy, RN, NP, Kate. "What is Menopause?" Menopause - Information and Resources on Menopause Symptoms and Treatment. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013.
"Menopause - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013.
"Menopause | National Institute on Aging." National Institute on Aging | The Leader in Aging Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013.
"Menopause: What is Menopause? Menopause Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis - UCLA." OB/GYN: Fertility Doctors, In Vitro Fertilization, Infertility, IVF, Fibroids, PCOS, Labor Delivery, Menopause - UCLA. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013.
Nordqvist, Christian. "What Is Menopause? What Are The Symptoms Of Menopause?" Medical News Today: Health News. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013.
Reviewed May 3, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith