Menopause: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

Menopause is the process through which a woman ceases to be fertile or menstruate. It is a normal part of life and is not considered a disease or a condition.

Symptoms may occur years before a woman’s final period. Some women may experience symptoms for months or years afterward.

In the United States (U.S.), the average age for menopause is 51 years.

Despite being a natural process in the body of any woman, menopause can cause drastic changes that trigger severe symptoms.

This article will explain the symptoms and causes of menopause, as well as how to diagnose and treat any symptoms that arise.

Fast facts on menopause

Menopause marks the end of a woman’s fertility.

Symptoms of menopause include night sweats, hot flashes, mood fluctuations, and cognitive changes.

A reduction in estrogen levels can lead to the symptoms of menopause.

There are a number of medical treatments and home remedies that can help with symptoms, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and self-management techniques.

The average age of menopause in the United States (U.S.) is 51 years.

Signs and symptoms

Menopause hot flash woman fan
Menopause is a natural change in the body. It causes symptoms such as hot flashes.

While menopause is not a disease or disorder, it does trigger some profound changes in a woman’s body.

A diagnosis of menopause is confirmed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for one year. However, the symptoms of menopause generally appear before the end of that one-year period.

Irregular periods

Changes to the menstrual pattern are the first noticeable symptoms of menopause. Some women may experience a period every 2 to 3 weeks. Others will not menstruate for months at a time.

Lower fertility

Perimenopause is the 3-to-5-year period before menopause.

During the perimenopausal stage, a woman’s estrogen levels will drop significantly. This reduces her chances of becoming pregnant.

Vaginal dryness

Dryness, itching, and discomfort of the vagina tend to occur during perimenopause.

As a result, some women may experience dyspareunia, or pain during sex . Women experience this pain due to lowering estrogen levels. These lower levels cause vaginal atrophy.

Vaginal atrophy is an inflammation of the vagina that happens as a result of the thinning and shrinking of the tissues, as well as decreased lubrication.

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Hot flashes

A hot flash is a sudden sensation of heat in the upper body. It may start in the face, neck, or chest, and progress upward or downward.

The skin may become red and patchy, and a woman will typically start to sweat. Her heart rate may suddenly increase, strengthen, or become irregular. Hot flashes generally occur during the first year after a woman’s final period.

Night sweats

Hot flashes that occur during the sleep cycle are called night sweats. Most women say their hot flashes do not last more than a few minutes.

However, studies have confirmed that moderate-to-severe night sweats and hot flashes may pose a problem for around 10.2 years.

Disturbed sleep

It can be difficult for women to fall asleep and stay asleep as they progress through menopause.

In some cases, night sweats can lead to discomfort during the night and difficulty sleeping. Sleep disturbance may also be caused by insomnia or anxiety.

Urinary problems

Menopause can disrupt a woman’s urinary cycle.

Women tend to be more susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs) during menopause, such as cystitis. They may also find that they also need to visit the toilet more often.

Emotional changes

Women can experience depression and low mood during menopause.

Hormonal changes can often trigger depressed feelings and mood swings. In many cases, these emotional symptoms also go hand-in-hand with sleep disturbance.

Women may also experience low libido, or sex drive, as a result of these emotional changes.

Problems focusing and learning

Menopause can affect cognitive functions, such as concentration.

Some women may also experience short-term memory problems and difficulty focusing for long periods.

Other effects

Other symptoms of menopause include:

a buildup of fat in the abdomen, sometimes leading to overweight and obesity

hair loss and thinning hair

breast shrinkage

Without treatment, symptoms usually taper off over a period of 2 to 5 years. However, symptoms can persist for longer. In some cases, vaginal dryness, itching, and discomfort can become chronic and eventually get worse without treatment.

Complications

Menopause can lead to the development of complications, including:

Cardiovascular disease: A drop in estrogen levels has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Osteoporosis: A woman may lose bone density rapidly during the first few years after menopause. Low bone density leads to a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Urinary incontinence: Menopause causes the tissues of the vagina and urethra to lose their elasticity. This can result in frequent, sudden, and overwhelming urges to urinate. These urges can be followed by involuntary loss of urine. Women may involuntarily urinate after coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting during menopause.

Breast cancer: Women face a higher risk of breast cancer following menopause. Regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk.

HRT menopause pills
Treatment for menopausal symptoms can range from hormone replacement therapy to self-management.

During menopause, women can pursue a number of treatments to maintain comfort.

Most women do not seek medical advice during this time, and many women require no treatment. However, a woman should visit a doctor if symptoms are affecting her quality of life.

Women should choose the type of therapy dependent on their menopausal symptoms, medical history, and personal preferences.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Women can keep the symptoms of menopause at bay by supplementing their estrogen and progestin levels.

Hormone replacement therapy can be received through a simple patch on the skin. This patch releases estrogen and progestin. HRT is highly effective for many of the symptoms that occur during menopause.

There are benefits to HRT, but be conscious of the risks:

Benefits of HRT

HRT effectively treats many troublesome menopausal symptoms.

It can help prevent osteoporosis.

HRT can lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

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