Menopause is the natural biological process that marks the end of your Menstrual Cycle. It is diagnosed after you have gone 12 Months without a menstrual Period. Menopause can happen in your 40's and 50's, But the Average age is 51 years in United States.
Among the physical symptoms of menopause, the most common is Hot Flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect emotional health. There are many effective treatments available,from lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy.
In the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause),you might experience these signs and symptoms:
1. Hot Flashes
2. Irregular periods.
3. Vaginal dryness.
5. Night sweats.
6. Sleep problems.
7. Mood changes.
8. Weight gain and slowed metabolism.
9. Thinning hair and dry skin.
10. Loss of breast fullness.
Signs and symptoms, including changes in menstruation can vary among women. Most likely, you'll experience some irregularity in your periods before they end. Skipping periods during Perimenopause is common and expected. Often, menstrual periods will skip a month and return, or skip several months and then start monthly cycles again for a few months. Periods also tend to happen on shorter cycles, so they are closed together. Despite irregular periods, pregnancy is possible. If you've skipped a period but aren't sure you've started the menopausal transition,consider a pregnancy test.
When to see a doctor?
Keep up with regular visits with your doctor for preventive health care and any medical concerns. Continue getting these appointments during and after menopause. Preventive health care as you age may include recommended health screening tests, such as Mammography and Triglyceride screening.Your doctor might recommend other tests and exams too including thyroid testing if suggested by your history, and breast and pelvic exams.
Always seek medical advice if you have bleeding from your vagina after menopause.
Causes of Menopause
Menopause can result from:
Naturally declining reproductive hormones: As you approach your late 30s, your ovaries start making less estrogen and progesterone — the hormones that regulate menstruation — and your fertility declines. In your 40s, your menstrual periods may become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, and more or less frequent, until eventually — on average, by age 51 — your ovaries stop releasing eggs, and you have no more periods.
Surgery that removes the ovaries (oophorectomy):Your ovaries produce hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, that regulate the menstrual cycle. Surgery to remove your ovaries causes immediate menopause. Your periods stop, and you're likely to have hot flashes and experience other menopausal signs and symptoms. Signs and symptoms can be severe, as hormonal changes occur abruptly rather than gradually over several years.
Surgery that removes your uterus but not your ovaries (hysterectomy) usually doesn't cause immediate menopause. Although you no longer have periods, your ovaries still release eggs and produce estrogen and progesterone.
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy: These cancer therapies can induce menopause, causing symptoms such as hot flashes during or shortly after the course of treatment. The halt to menstruation (and fertility) is not always permanent following chemotherapy, so birth control measures may still be desired. Radiation therapy only affects ovarian function if radiation is directed at the ovaries. Radiation therapy to other parts of the body, such as breast tissue or the head and neck,won't affect menopause.
Primary ovarian insufficiency: About 1% of women experience menopause before age of 40 (premature menopause). Premature menopause may result from the failure of your ovaries to produce normal levels of reproductive hormones (primary ovarian insufficiency), which can stem from genetic factors or autoimmune disease. But often no cause of premature menopause can be found. For these women, hormone therapy is typically recommended at least until the natural age of menopause in order to protect the brain, heart and bones.
After menopause, your risk of certain medical conditions increases. Examples include:
Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease:When your estrogen levels decline,your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women as well as in men. So, it's important to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain a normal weight. Ask your doctor for advice on how to protect your heart, such as how to reduce your cholesterol or blood pressure if it's too high.
Osteoporosis: This condition causes bones to become brittle and weak, leading to an increased risk of fractures.During the first few years after menopause, you may lose bone density at a rapid rate, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis are especially susceptible to fractures of their spine, hips and wrists.
Urinary incontinence: As the tissues of your vagina and urethra lose elasticity, you may experience frequent, sudden, strong urges to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine(urge incontinence),or the loss of urine with coughing, laughing or lifting(stress incontinence).You may have urinary tract infections more often.
Strengthening pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises and using a topical vaginal estrogen may help relieve symptoms of incontinence. Hormone therapy may also be an effective treatment option for menopausal urinary tract and vaginal changes that can result in urinary incontinence.
Sexual function: Vaginal dryness from decreased moisture production and loss of elasticity can cause discomfort and slight bleeding during sexual intercourse. Also, decreased sensation may reduce your desire for sexual activity (libido).
Water-based vaginal moisturizers and lubricants may help. If a vaginal lubricant isn't enough,many women benefit from the use of local vaginal estrogen treatment, available as a Vaginal Cream,Tablet or Ring.
Weight gain: Many women gain weight during the menopausal transition and after menopause because metabolism slows. You may need to eat less and exercise more, just to maintain your current weight.
Diagnosis & treatment
What happens during menopause? Natural menopause isn’t caused by any type of medical or surgical treatment. It’s slow and has three stages:
Perimenopause: This phase usually begins several years before menopause, when your ovaries slowly make less estrogen. Perimenopause lasts until menopause, the point at which your ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last 1 to 2 years of this stage, estrogen levels fall faster. Many women have menopause symptoms.
Menopause: This is when it's been a year since you had a period. Your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and making most of their estrogen.
Postmenopause: These are the years after menopause. Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes usually ease. But health risks related to the loss of estrogen increase as you get older.
What conditions cause premature menopause?
Your genes, some immune system disorders, or medical procedures can cause premature menopause. Other causes include:
Premature ovarian failure: When your ovaries prematurely stop releasing eggs, for unknown reasons, your levels of estrogen and progesterone change. When this happens before you’re 40, it's called premature ovarian failure.Unlike premature menopause, premature ovarian failure isn’t always permanent.
Induced menopause: This happens when your doctor takes out your ovaries for medical reasons, such as uterine cancer or endometriosis.It can also happen when radiation or chemotherapy damages your ovaries.
How long does symptoms of menopause last?
Menopause is different in each woman. In general, the symptoms of perimenopause last about 4 years.
Menopause Diagnosis: You might suspect that you’re going into menopause. Or your doctor will say something, based on symptoms you've told them about.
You can keep track of your periods and chart them as they become uneven. The pattern will be another clue to your doctor that you’re menopausal.
Your doctor might also test your blood for levels of Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This usually goes up as you near menopause and Estradiol decreases.This tells your doctor how much estrogen your ovaries are making.
Thyroid hormones: This shows problems with your thyroid gland, which can affect your period and cause symptoms that look like menopause.
Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH): Your body makes this in its reproductive tissues. It can help your doctor learn about the reserve of eggs in your ovaries.
Menopause is a natural process. Many symptoms will go away over time. But if they’re causing problems, treatments can help you feel better.Common ones include:
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): This is also called menopausal hormone therapy. You take medications to replace the hormones that your body isn’t making anymore. Certain drugs or combinations can help with hot flashes and vaginal symptoms, as well as making your bones stronger.But they can also put you at higher risk of health problems like heart disease or breast cancer,so you
should take the lowest dose that works for the shortest time possible.
Topical hormone therapy: This is an estrogen cream, insert, or gel that you put in your vagina to help with dryness.
Nonhormone medications: The anti depression drug paroxetine (FDA-approved) to treat hot flashes.The nerve drug gabapentin and the blood pressure drug clonidine might also ease them. Medicines called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) help your body use its estrogen to treat hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Medications for osteoporosis: You might take medicines or vitamin D supplements to help keep your bones strong.
Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes help many women deal with menopause symptoms. Try these steps:
l If you’re having hot flashes, drink cold water, sit or sleep near a fan, and dress in layers.
l Use an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer or lubricant for dryness. Medicines called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) help your body use its estrogen to treat hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
l Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises to prevent bladder leaks.
l Stay socially and mentally active to prevent memory problems.
l Don’t smoke. Tobacco might cause early menopause and increase hot flashes.
l Limit how much alcohol you drink, to lower your chance of getting breast cancer and help you sleep better.
l Eat a variety of foods and keep a healthy weight to help with hot flashes.
l Practice things like yoga, deep breathing, or massage to help you relax.
Alternative and Complementary Menopause Treatments
Some studies have found that soy products relieve hot flashes, but researchers are still looking into it. There aren’t many large studies on whether other supplements such as black cohosh or “bioidentical” hormones work for menopause symptoms.Talk to your doctor before starting any herbal or dietary supplements.
Yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture are safer ways to manage menopause symptoms.
The loss of estrogen linked with menopause is tied to a number of health problems that become more common as women age. After menopause, women are more likely to have:
l Bone loss (osteoporosis).
l Heart disease.
l Bladder and bowels that don’t work like they should.
l Higher risk of Alzheimer's disease.
l More wrinkles.
l Poor muscle power and tone.
l Weaker vision,such as from cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and macular degeneration (breakdown of the tiny spot in the center of the retina that is the center of vision)
It can be tough to manage the sexual changes that come along with menopause, like vaginal dryness and a loss of sex drive. You might also find that you don’t enjoy sex as much and have trouble reaching orgasm. As long as it isn’t painful, regular sexual activity may help keep your vagina healthy by promoting blood flow.
Your ovaries have stopped sending out eggs once you’re in menopause, so you can’t get pregnant. But you can still get a sexually transmitted disease. Use safer sex practices if you’re not in a relationship with one person.
As mentioned above Hot Flashes is one the most common symptom of menopause,therefore let us know about it.
It is the main symptom of menopause. A Hot Flash is an intense feeling of heat that comes on suddenly and isn’t caused by hot weather. When it happens,your face, neck, and chest turn red and warm, and you’ll break out in a Sweat.
Hot Flashes are most likely to happen when you're in Menopause but other medical conditions can cause them too.When Hot Flashes wake you up from sleep, they're called Night Sweats. Here’s what you need to know.
What does a hot flash feel like?
Up to 80 percent of women in menopause get hot flashes.Yet every person experiences them a little differently.
In general during a Hot Flash,a feeling of warmth suddenly floods your face and upper body.Your face and neck may turn red like your skin is flushed or you're Blushing. Red blotches may also appear on your skin.
Other symptoms of a hot flash can include:
1. A Fast or Uneven Heartbeat
2. Heavy Sweating
5. A feeling like blood is rushing through your body
After the hot flash passes and the sweat evaporates from your body, you’ll feel chilled and may start to shiver.
A hot flash that hits at Night — called a Night Sweat — can wake you up from a sound sleep.
What happens in your body during a hot flash?
Menopause is the main cause of hot flashes.During this transition,levels of the hormone Estrogen Fall. This drop in Estrogen throws off your body’s “thermostat” — a gland called the Hypothalamus at the base of your brain that regulates your Internal Temperature.
Lower Estrogen levels send a signal to the hypothalamus that you’re too Hot.In response,your brain sends a message to your body to cool you off — just as it would do if you were outside on a Hot Day.
Blood Vessels near the surface of your skin widen(Dilate) to release heat.This creates the red flush you see on your skin. Your heart pumps faster. Your sweat glands open up. The sweat evaporates off your skin to cool down your body.
All of these actions produce the rush of heat that you feel during a Hot Flash.
Your body temperature can also rise several degrees during a Hot Flash.This rush of heat can make you feel very uncomfortable.
Certain things you do can even set off or worsen Hot Flashes Including:
1. Drinking Strong Coffee or Tea
2. Eating Spicy Foods
3. Feeling Stressed or Anxious
4. Being Outside on a Hot Day
5. Running a Fever
6. Dressing too Warmly
Some people who have their Ovaries Surgically removed go into Premature "Surgical Menopause".They can also develop Hot Flashes.
Other causes of Hot flashes aren’t due to the same Low Estrogen Levels that cause them during Menopause. Chemotherapy or Hormone Treatment for Cancer can also Trigger Hot Flashes, as can Alcohol and Certain Medications.
A few Diseases have also been linked to Hot Flashes Including:
l Overactive thyroid gland(Hyperthyroidism)
l Some Neurological Conditions
l Some types of Cancer
How long does it last?
The average hot flash lasts from 30 Seconds to 10 Minutes.Everyone gets them with a different Frequency and Intensity. In most people experiencing it during Menopause, Hot Flashes last between 6 Months and 2 years. Often this symptom will stop once you’ve completed the Menopause Transition.
Up to half of women report continued Hot Flashes for a Few Years after Menopause. Some keep getting them for 10 years or more — well into their 70s or 80s. Things like your Genes and Hormone levels will dictate when this Symptom Stops.
How frequently do hot flashes happen?
Hot flashes can arrive intermittently or frequently.Some people get them several times an Hour. Others get a few hot flashes a Day. Still others only have Hot Flashes once a week or less often.
These events generally start occurring in Perimenopause — the Transitional time before Menopause when your Ovaries gradually produce Less Estrogen.You may note a Spike as you Move into Menopause,which is defined as going one full year without getting a Period. In most Women,the frequency of Hot Flashes will decrease within a few years after Menopause.
Avoiding triggers like spicy food and alcohol may help prevent at least some Hot Flashes.To ease your discomfort when a Hot Flash hits, Dress in Removable Layers.Carry a Fan and some Wet Wipes in your purse to cool you down when the heat gets too intense.
If the Hot Flashes are unbearable or Interfere with your daily life,see a Doctor.
Hormone therapy, as well as some non-hormone medications, can help reduce the frequency of Hot Flashes.
If your Hot Flashes seem to be related to something other than Menopause,you Should also see a Doctor to get Checked Out.