Despite being just a natural occurrence in the life of every woman beyond a certain age, menopause often gets seen as a significant setback by a lot of women. Even though menopause often brings along some severe changes and symptoms, it’s very important to understand – menopause is neither a disease, nor a health disorder. It’s just a natural process through which a woman’s fertility comes to an end.
The common age for women to menopause varies in a wide band of about 40 to 60 years. Clinically – menopause gets concluded after a woman completes 12-months without menstrual periods - barring the case of pregnancy or some ailment affecting her menstrual cycles. A hysterectomy or a radiation therapy can also induce menopause.
What should you watch out for?
As a prelude to menopause, hot flashes or irregular periods can appear. These premenopausal symptoms can occur months before menopause. Menopause is unpredictable and the symptoms can be highly individualistic. Some women may not experience any symptom at all, while some may experience a combination of following symptoms:
Periods become irregular
For women in the menopausal age bracket, irregular periods indicate that menopause could be around the corner. Irregularity of menstrual cycles could be in the form of frequency, blood flow, or period duration.
Hot flashes, night sweats, chills & sleeplessness
One of the most common symptoms of menopause, hot flashes are characterized by sudden sensation of heat in the upper part of body. This is usually accompanied with sudden sweating and sometimes dizziness. About 75% of all women experience hot flashes. Night sweats refer to hot flashes that occur during sleep - leading to sleeplessness. Akin to hot flashes, some women may also experience sudden chills as a result of hormonal changes during menopause.
Hot flashes and night sweats can also occur during post-menopause period.
Moody and irritable
Hormonal changes during menopause give rise to mood swings and irritable behaviour in most women. For those with a history of anxiety or depression, symptoms can get even harder to control.
Vaginal Dryness & Decreased Sex Drive
Vaginal dryness and itching are common symptoms of menopause. Lowering estrogen levels result in thinning and shrinking of vaginal tissue, together with decreased lubrication - which results in vaginal inflammation, and pain during sex. It is completely natural to develop an aversion towards sex during menopause, but this may not be applicable to all women.
Weight gain, dryness or thinning of hair, joint pain, and stiffness are some of the other symptoms women may experience during menopause.
How is Menopause confirmed?
While symptoms are often adequate for a Doctor to conclude the onset of menopause, under certain circumstances, doctors may recommend following tests:
- Vaginal pH levels
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels
Treatment for Menopause Symptoms
A large percentage of women do not require, or seek, treatment to manage menopause symptoms. If the symptoms start affecting normal life, medical help should be sought. A number of different treatments exist to bring relief from these symptoms. Self-medication is highly unadvisable if your symptoms are severe. Consult your gynaecologist for the most effective treatment. Dependent on symptoms and lifestyle – hormone replacement therapies are sometimes used to supplement estrogen and progesterone levels. This is however also reported to increase the risk of heart diseases/ stroke. Very low dose anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed by doctors to manage extreme mood swings.
Exercising regularly, ensuring nutritious diet, and staying off smoking - go a long way in the self-management of menopausal symptoms.
What does early menopause indicate?
Early menopause can happen due to genetic reasons, autoimmune disorders, or medical procedures like - hysterectomy, chemotherapy or other radiation therapies for cancer. If a woman experiences menopausal symptoms too early – she must consult her doctor.
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