What is Menopause?
Menopause is a specific period in a woman’s life when her menstruation cycle ends. The age it can be experienced varies from woman to woman. However, it usually happens in the late 40s or early 50s.
Menopause can result in several changes in the body. The symptoms are a result of the reduced production of estrogen and progesterone levels in the ovaries. Menopausal symptoms may include hot flashes, weight gain, or vaginal dryness. Vaginal atrophy also leads to vagina dryness. This can, in turn, cause inflammation and thinning of the vaginal tissues, which contributes to unpleasant sexual intercourse.
Menopause as well increases the risk of certain conditions like osteoporosis. One may discover that the menopausal stage requires little medical attention or may decide to consult the doctor to talk about symptoms and treatment options.
At What Age Does Menopause Begin?
The average age when menopause begins is 51 years old. The majority of women stop having periods at ages 45 to 55 years old. The onset stages of when the functioning of the ovary starts to decline start years before that in some women, whereas others will continue to have menstrual periods into their late 50s.
Factors such as smoking or chemotherapy can decrease the rate at which the ovary declines, which results in menopause earlier than usual.
Stages of Menopause
There are various stages of menopause.
Perimenopause: This refers to the period right before menopause starts.
During perimenopause, the body starts the transition stage to menopause, which means that the production of hormones from the ovaries is declining. One may start to develop symptoms typically associated with menopause, such as hot flashes. The menstrual cycle may become irregular and inconsistent, but it won’t stop during the perimenopause stage.
Once you completely cease having a menstrual cycle for about 12 consecutive months, one has entered the menopausal stage.
Symptoms of Menopause
About 75% of women encounter hot flashes during menopause, which makes it the most common symptom experienced by women who have reached the menopausal stage. Hot flashes can happen during the day or even at night. Some women may even experience muscle and joint pain, also known as arthralgia or mood swings.
It may not be easy to determine whether these symptoms are caused by hormonal shifts, life circumstances, or perhaps the aging process itself.
During a hot flash, one might possibly feel the body temperature rise. Hot flashes affect the top half of the body, and the skin may turn red in color or even become blotchy. This heat rush could lead to sweating, heart palpitations, and feelings of dizziness. One tends to feel cold after experiencing a hot flash.
Hot flashes may arise daily or even multiple times a day. One may experience hot flashes for several months that could last up to years.
Avoiding things that could incite hot flashes may help in reducing the number of hot flashes one experiences.
Triggers may include:
- Eating spicy food
- Feeling stressed
- Consuming alcohol or caffeine
- Being in a hot environment
Weight Gain in Menopause
Changes in one’s hormonal levels may cause one to gain weight. However, asides from hormonal changes, aging can also lead to weight gain.
Aim to maintain a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly and practice other healthy habits to help control weight. Being overweight can increase one’s chances of having heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.
Hormonal Options for the Management of Menopausal Problems
Numerous hormone therapies include FDA-approved for treatment of hot flashes as well as prevention of loss of bone. Some of the known risks and benefits of using this treatment option depending on the seriousness of your hot flashes, bone loss, as well as your health. Consult your doctor right away before trying any of these hormone therapies, as they may not be right for you.
Non-hormonal options for the Management of Menopausal Symptoms
For some, hormone therapies may not be the right choice for you. Some medical conditions help prevent you from having the capability of using hormone therapy, or you may decide to choose not to use that sort of treatment for your own personal reasons. Changes to your lifestyle may help ease off many symptoms without requirements or need for hormonal intervention.
Changes to lifestyle may include:
- Weight loss
- Avoiding food that increases or aggravates symptoms
- Room temperature reductions
Other treatment options such as herbal therapies, self-hypnosis, acupuncture, some low-dose antidepressants, and other medications may help in reducing hot flashes.
There are several FDA-approved medications that can be used for the prevention of the loss of bone.
One may find Over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants, estrogen creams, or other products that can help with vaginal dryness.
Conclusively, menopause is naturally a part of a woman’s life cycle. It’s a period when the estrogen and progesterone levels in the body decrease. After menopause, the chances for some conditions like osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease may increase.
In managing symptoms, one should maintain a healthy diet and get enough exercise to prevent unnecessary weight gain.
One should contact a doctor if you develop negative symptoms that affect one’s ability to properly function or if you observe anything not usual that might need urgent medical attention. There are several treatment options that help with symptoms like hot flashes.
Ensure to check-in with a doctor during consistent and continuous gynecological examinations as you experience menopause.
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