Menopause: Overview, Stages, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Menopause

Menopause starts when you haven’t had your period for 12 months in a row. Common symptoms like night sweats can happen before, during and after menopause. Treatments are available to help reduce these symptoms and improve your quality of life. Your hormone levels naturally drop as you get to the end of your childbearing years. When you reach menopause you will stop ovulating and having periods which means you can’t get pregnant anymore. In the United States, most people go through natural menopause around the age of 51. For more research you can also visit Wikipedia.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is when your menstrual cycles end. This term is often used to talk about the changes you experience just before or after you stop having periods, signaling the end of your ability to have children. Menopause typically occurs around age 50.

What are the Stages of Menopause?

Menopause is a slow process that usually takes about 7 years but can also last up to 14 years. The period leading up to menopause is called perimenopause which usually starts in your mid-40s. During this time your hormone levels change causing your periods to become irregular. Perimenopause can last from a few months to several years. Menopause is confirmed when you haven’t had a period for 12 months in a row. Most people go through menopause in their early 50s, but it can happen earlier. Early menopause happens between ages 40 and 45, and premature menopause happens before age 40.

Perimenopause:

This is the transitional period that begins before menopause and includes the 12 months after a person’s last period.

Menopause:

This begins either 12 months after the last period or when menstruation stops for a clinical reason, such as the removal of the ovaries.

Postmenopause:

This refers to the years after menopause, although it can be hard to pinpoint exactly when menopause ends and postmenopause starts.

What are the Causes of Menopause?

Menopause is a natural part of life, not a disease. Most women go through menopause in midlife, but sometimes surgery or other factors can cause it to start earlier.

Natural Menopause:

A woman’s reproductive years span from puberty to menopause, marking two natural transitions. As menopause approaches the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease because they are no longer needed for reproduction. These changes cause menopause.

Premature Menopause:

Some people go through menopause earlier than others for reasons besides medical treatments. Menopause may happen early due to:

  • A genetic condition affecting the chromosomes, like Turner’s syndrome.
  • An autoimmune disease.
  • Rare infections such as tuberculosis, malaria, or mumps.
  • Anyone who notices changes in their menstrual cycle before age 45 should see a doctor.

Surgery and Treatment:

If a person has surgery to remove their ovaries, they will go through menopause. If this happens before middle age, it is called “early menopause”. Doctors might suggest hormone therapy to ease symptoms, but it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of this treatment. Treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also make the ovaries stop working, either temporarily or permanently. This depends on the person’s age and the type and location of the treatment. A person who has menopause due to medical treatment will have the same symptoms as someone with natural menopause, but the symptoms might come on more quickly and the changes are sudden. Experiencing menopause early can also cause feelings of sadness or depression about losing fertility sooner than expected. Some people choose to freeze eggs or explore other options for having children before starting such treatment. Counseling is often available for support. It’s also important to talk to a doctor about related health issues, as early menopause can increase the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

What are the Symptoms of Menopause?

Everyone’s experience of menopause is different. Some people have severe and varied symptoms while others may hardly notice any changes. Common physical symptoms include:

  • Changes in breast size or shape
  • Dry eyes
  • Flushing
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Hot flashes
  • Increased facial or body hair
  • Heart palpitation
  • Increased urination
  • Sleep insomnia
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Pain during penetrative sex  
  • Sore or tender breasts
  • Vulvovaginal atrophy, which can cause vaginal dryness
  • Weight gain

Common mental and emotional symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Unpredictable shifts in mood
  • Psychological stress

What is the Diagnosis of Menopause?

If you’re experiencing unusual symptoms and aren’t sure if they’re related to menopause, it’s a good idea to see a healthcare professional. They can conduct blood tests to check if menopause is likely. The PicoAMH Elisa diagnostic test can help determine if menopause has started. Other blood tests can measure levels of FSH and Estradiol, a type of estrogen. Consistently high blood levels typically 30 mlU/mL or above along with no menstruation for a year, can usually confirm menopause. Depending on your symptoms and medical history your healthcare professional may also order tests to rule out other underlying conditions. These tests may include:

  • Estradiol
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin
  • Kidney function
  • Cholesterol
  • Progesterone
  • Liver function
  • Prolactin
  • Testosterone
  • Thyroid function

What is the Treatment of Menopause?

Menopause isn’t a health issue but a natural part of life. Still, it can bring about undesired physical and mental changes. If you’re worried about these changes, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor. They may suggest one or more of the following:

Hormone Therapy:

This treatment helps balance the body’s hormone levels by giving extra estrogen and a synthetic version of progesterone hormone. Hormone therapy is available in different forms, like skin patches and creams. It can help lessen hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. However, using it may raise the risk of certain diseases and health issues. A person shouldn’t use hormone therapy if they have risk factors for these health problems, of if they have a personal or family history of them:

  • Heart disease
  • Blood clots
  • Strokes
  • High levels of triglycerides in the blood
  • Breast cancer
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Liver disease
  • Before deciding to use hormone therapy it’s essential to talk with a doctor about the potential benefits and risks.

Other Treatments:

A person might discover that the following can also help ease symptoms:

  • Over the counter gels and other products for vaginal dryness.
  • Prescription pills, creams, and rings for vaginal dryness.
  • Low dose hormonal birth control pills for hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood changes.
  • Low dose antidepressants for hot flashes, even in individuals without depression.

What Home Remedies or Lifestyle Changes Can Help Menopause Symptoms?

Making certain life changes can enhance your overall well-being and help manage symptoms.

Personal Care:

Using a daily moisturizer can alleviate dryness. Also, steer clear of too much sun exposure and harsh cosmetics or cleaning products, as they can dry out your skin. Wearing loose, layered clothing that you can easily adjust can help with hot flushes. Carrying a portable fan can also provide relief when you feel flushed.

Diet and Nutrition:

Making sure you get a wide range of essential nutrients from your food is crucial. A balanced diet can enhance your overall well-being. If you can’t increase your intake of important vitamins or minerals through your diet, talk to a healthcare professional about adding supplements. Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids might help with night sweats. Calcium, vitamins D, and magnesium, could also lower the risk of osteoporosis.

Physical Activity:

Exercise can strengthen your body, improve overall well-being, and help manage weight. Current guidelines recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise and two sessions of resistance training per week.

Mental Health:

You might consider adopting a yoga or meditation practice to help manage psychological stress. Learning box breathing or other breathing techniques can also help control emotions throughout the day. Joining a local support group or working with a counselor can also be beneficial.

Caffeine Use:

If you smoke, it might be a good time to cut back or quit altogether. Avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke can also improve your overall health. Alcohol can worsen its symptoms. Try to limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day.

Alternative Remedies:

Some people use black cohosh to relieve symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. However, there is little evidence to support these claims, and more research is needed. Some alternative remedies, such as soy isoflavones, melatonin, and flaxseed, are thought to increase estrogen levels, but there’s not enough evidence to prove they are safe or effective.   

What are the Side Effects of Menopause?

Here are some potential side effects of it. Such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Hair loss
  • Heart
  • Bone loss
  • Change in your period
  • Hot flashes
  • Urinary
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Joint pain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Dry skin
  • Dry eyes and dry mouth
  • Mood changes
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Decreased libido
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Vaginal changes
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue

What are the Complications of Menopause?

After menopause your risk of certain medical conditions increases. Examples include:

  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Sexual function
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Bladder and bowels don’t work like they should
  • Weight loss
  • More wrinkles
  • Higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Poor muscles and tone
  • Weaker vision, such as from cataracts and macular degeneration

FAQs:

Is life better after menopause?

As hormone levels stabilize, either naturally or through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), the symptoms disappear and many women feel better than they have in years.

Is menopause good or bad?

It is a natural biological process. However, the physical symptoms like hot flashes and emotional symptoms may disrupt sleep, lower energy levels, or affect emotional health. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available, ranging from lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy.

What are the health benefits of menopause?

When you enter it your ovaries stop releasing eggs. This means your menstrual cycle and monthly period come to an end. You no longer need to buy tampons or pads, and there’s no risk of unexpected bleeding or spotting. Additionally, you can’t get pregnant anymore.

What is the best age for menopause?

The time before it, when women might notice changes in their periods, hot flashes, or other symptoms, is called the menopausal transition or perimenopause. This transition usually starts between age 45 and 55. It typically lasts around seven years but can go up to 14 years.

Can you get pregnant after menopause?

When you reach postmenopause, your hormone levels are too low for ovulation and natural pregnancy, so you don’t need birth control anymore. However, you could still get pregnant with in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF after menopause has been successful in many cases.

How to get pregnant at 45?

Using a donated egg offers the best chance for pregnancy after age 40. The chances of conceiving are higher if you use an egg from a younger, healthier donor that has been fertilized with your partner’s sperm. This can increase the success rate by about 35%.

What is the latest age to have a baby?

A woman’s best reproductive years are from the late teens to the late 20s. Fertility starts to decline by age 30 and drops more quickly after the mid-30s. By age 45, it is very unlikely to get pregnant naturally.

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