What are the common signs and symptoms of menopause?
As most women approach menopause, their menstrual periods become irregular - they happen closer together and/or further apart. The symptoms of menopause can be divided into early and late onset symptoms. Early symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, and mood changes. Late symptoms include vaginal dryness and irritation,
osteoporosis, and heart disease.
Irregular bleeding: The period of time leading up to menopause is often characterized by irregular periods. In fact, changes such as shorter or longer periods, heavier or lighter menstrual bleeding, and varying lengths of time between periods may be a sign that menopause is near.
Hot flashes: Hot flashes are the classic sign of menopause, as well as the most common reason for seeking treatment. A hot flash produces a sudden sensation of warmth or even intense heat that spreads over various parts of the body, especially the chest, face, and head. Flushing and sweating usually occur as well, followed by a chill. Some women feel their heart beating very fast or hard and feel anxious. These flashes last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. How often they occur varies from woman to woman. Women who have had a hysterectomy are more likely to have hot flashes. Many women experience most of their hot flashes in the first 2 years after menopause, and find that the hot flashes gradually lessen. However, some women have hot flashes for several years before menopause, and some have them for 10, 20, or even 40 years or longer after menopause
Vaginal thinning: Estrogen plays a key role in maintaining the function of a woman’s vagina and surrounding tissues, uterus, urinary bladder, and urethra (the organ through which urine is passed from the bladder). After menopause, all of these organs may weaken or shrink. When these changes occur in the bladder and urethra, they can lead to the involuntary leakage of urine, infection, or painful urination. A thinning of the tissue lining the vagina may lead to pain during intercourse. Vaginal dryness can also occur, as may itching or irritation. Although few women experience serious problems with vaginal dryness and thinning right after menopause, both dryness and thinning continue to occur over time. Some doctors estimate that at least half of all women older than 60 years have some degree of vaginal dryness. Regular sexual intercourse can help to keep the vagina moist and toned.
Bone loss: Rapid bone loss is common during the perimenopausal years. Most women reach their peak bone density between the ages of 25-30 years. After that, you lose an average of 0.13% per year. During the perimenopause, bone loss accelerates to about a 3% loss per year. Later, it drops off to about a 2% loss per year. There usually is no pain associated with bone loss. However, bone loss can cause osteoporosis, a condition that places you at an increased risk of breaking a bone (bone fracture). These fractures can be intensely painful and can interfere with daily life. They also can increase your risk of death.
Cholesterol: Your cholesterol profile also changes significantly at the time of menopause. Your total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol increase. Increased LDL cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease (heart disease).
Heart disease: Heart disease is the number one killer of women after menopause. One out of two postmenopausal women will develop heart disease, and one out of three will die from it. Although the onset of heart disease in women lags behind the onset in men by about a decade, the occurrence of heart disease increases after menopause. Furthermore, there are actually more women than men who eventually die of heart disease. Being a female over the age of 55 is one of the many risk factors for heart disease.
Weight gain: A 3-year study of healthy women nearing menopause found an average gain of 5 pounds during this time. It is unclear whether this gain is due to aging or to hormonal changes.
Mood changes: Even though moodiness, irritability, and tearfulness are commonly attributed to menopause, studies are underway to determine which of these symptoms are actually due to menopause versus other conditions such as medical depression. Even though many women experience improvement in irritability with oral hormone therapy, hormone therapy alone will not be adequate treatment for a woman suffering from true medical depression (a true depression may require antidepressant medications that are different from medications for menopause). Accordingly, women who are experiencing significant mood symptoms should be evaluated by their doctors to exclude depression and other medical illnesses.
Other symptons includes urinary problems (such as leaking, burning or pain), night sweats and sleeping problems (these may lead to feeling tired, stressed, or tense), less interest in sex and changes in sexual response, irregular or skipped periods, joint and muscle aches and pains, headaches, crashing fatigue, osteoporosis (after several years).
More information on menopause
What is menopause? - Menopause is a stage of the human female reproductive cycle that occurs as the ovaries stop producing estrogen, causing the reproductive system to gradually shut down.
When does menopause occur? - Most premenopausal women experience changes in their menstrual cycle. Perimenopause is the phase before menopause actually takes place, when ovarian hormone production is declining and fluctuating, causing a host of symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of menopause? - The symptoms of menopause can be divided into early and late onset symptoms. Early symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, and mood changes. Late symptoms include vaginal dryness and irritation, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
What causes menopause? - Menopause occurs when the ovaries are totally depleted of eggs and no amount of stimulation from the regulating hormones can force them to work.
What is premature menopause? - Premature menopause is menopause that happens before the age of 40 - whether it is natural or induced.
What is perimenopause? - Perimenopause is the stage of a woman's life before menopause. The perimenopause is a normal period of transition between the childbearing years and menopause.
What is postmenopause? - Postmenopause is the time when most of the transitional stress of menopause has passed. Since postmenopausal women produce less estrogen, there are some symptoms that they might experience.
What are the treatment options for menopause? - Treatments for menopause can be divided based on those symptoms that are present in a given woman at a specific time. The standard of treatment for menopausal symptoms is replacement of one or both of the major female hormones.
What is hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? - Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment for women who have reached or passed menopause, which often is referred to as "the change of life."
What are the benefits of hormone replacement therapy? - The benefits of hormone replacement therapy include controlling menopause symptoms, preventing heart disease, preventing osteoporosis, preventing some hard-to-detect female cancers.
What are the risk factors for hormone replacement therapy? - Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) risks and possible side effects include increased risk of cancers, blood clots, gallbladder disease, and heart attack or stroke.
What hormones are used in hormone replacement therapy? - The menopause is associated with a relative lack of oestrogens and progestogens. Replacement therapy always requires oestrogens, which are given continuously.
How is hormone replacement therapy taken? - There are many ways of taking HRT, including a daily tablet, skin patches, a small pellet or implant under the skin, a gel applied daily to the skin, or a nasal spray.
What is natural hormone replacement therapy? - Natural hormone replacement therapy (NHRT) is a combination of human estrogens and natural human progesterone.
What are herbal remedies for menopause? - Some women take herbal, natural, or plant-based products to help their symptoms. Wort and chasteberry may help some women with depressed mood.
What is estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)? - Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) is therapy to replace estrogen no longer made by a woman's body because she is post-menopausal or her ovaries have been damaged or removed.
What menopause diet is suggested? - Eating right can definitely ease the various discomforts of menopause including hot flashes, bloating and mood swings.