Menopause, also known as climacteric, is a normal condition that all women will experience as they age. Menopause means a woman’s menstrual periods stop permanently and cannot bear children. Menopause is usually diagnosed after a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period. It mainly appears in women’s 40s or 50s. In America, the average age for menopause is 51 years old. If a woman had a hysterectomy, menopause may occur earlier, at an average of 45 years of age.
There are three stages of menopause.
Perimenopause is a long transition to menopause and usually begins several years before menopause.
This is the point when it’s been a year since a woman last had her last menstrual period.
This means the years after menopause. During this stage, symptoms such as hot flashes can relieve for most women while the risks related to the loss of estrogen has increased as the woman ages.
Several causes of menopause may include as followings.
This make the natural decline of reproductive hormones. As a woman reaches her late 30s, the ovaries start producing less progesterone and estrogen and perimenopause begins. On average, the ovaries stop producing eggs by age 51.
A hysterectomy that removes not the ovaries, but the uterus usually doesn’t cause menopause. Though you no longer have periods, your ovaries still release eggs and produce estrogen and progesterone. However, if you have a surgery that removes both your uterus and your ovaries, you can get immediate menopause.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
These cancer therapies can cause menopause, with symptoms like hot flashes during or shortly after the course of treatment. In most cases, the halt to fertility is not always permanent following chemotherapy, so birth control measures may still be desired.
Primary ovarian insufficiency
Rare (about1%) women experience menopause before age 40 which we called premature menopause. This may because of primary ovarian insufficiency which means the ovaries fail to produce normal levels of reproductive hormones. It generally stems from genetic factors or autoimmune disease and we often cannot fount the cause.
In addition, smoking may be a risk factor. According to some studies, menopause can occur earlier in those who smoke tobacco.
Though menopause is a natural process of any woman, it can cause serious symptoms. Symptoms of menopause mainly include:
- Irregular periods
- Lower fertility
- Vaginal dryness
This can make itching, and discomfort of the vagina and cause pain during sex. In serious cases, this may cause vaginal atrophy.
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Disturbed sleep or insomnia
- Urinary problems
Women tend to be more susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs) during menopause, such as cystitis. They may also find that they visit the toilet more often.
- Emotional changes
This is an obvious symptom. Women in this period often get emotional such as depression or irritability.
- Joint and muscle aches and pains
- Difficult to concentrate
- Low cognitive ability
- Weight gains uncontrolled
- Hair loss
- Breast shrinkage
Doctors usually diagnose menopause from patients’ symptoms and personal conditions. In some cases, doctors may need some tests to diagnose the menopause, including:
- Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH)
This hormone is a marker of ovarian function.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
During this period, the patient’s FSH levels increase and estradiol levels decrease.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
Because an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause symptoms similar to those of menopause.
Most women require no treatment during this time, while you need go to see a doctor if some symptoms are affecting your life. You can choose the type of therapy depending on your specific symptoms, medical history, and personal preferences.
Following are some treatment options may be helpful, including:
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Women can control the symptoms of menopause by supplementing estrogen and progestin. HRT is highly effective for many of the symptoms of menopause while it increases risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke.
Clonidine (often sold as Catapres)
It can help relieve vaginal dryness, discomfort with intercourse and some urinary symptoms.
Following tips may be helpful to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
- Drink a glass of cold water or use a fan when you feel hot flashes.
- Use water-based vaginal lubricants (such as Astroglide, K-Y jelly), silicone-based lubricants or moisturizers (Replens) to reduce vaginal discomfort.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can make you difficult to sleep well.
- Learn to relax such as deep breathing.
- Have pelvic floor muscle exercises, called Kegel exercises, can improve some forms of urinary incontinence.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Avoid smoking.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get regular physical activity or exercise on most days to help protect against heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and other conditions associated with aging.
Some diseases and problems may be caused by menopause, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Urinary incontinence
- Breast cancer
- A poorly working bladder and bowel
- An increasing risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Vision loss. (like cataracts and macular degeneration)
Please consult your doctors for your specific treatments.