Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a stage of a woman's life characterized by the end of her menstrual cycle, and it marks the end of her child-bearing years. As a result of these biological changes, women often experience a number of different symptoms for a period of time, though they eventually subside. It generally happens in a woman's 40s or 50s, though the average age is 51 in the United States. All women go through this stage of life, but if the symptoms cause extreme discomfort or life disruptions, there are some treatment options available.
In addition to symptoms during menopause, there are also symptoms that can occur leading up to menopause, These are called perimenopause symptoms, and they may include irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disruption, mood swings, weight gain, thinning hair, and vaginal dryness. Sounds fun, huh?
Irregular periods are common, though it's still possible to get pregnant during perimenopause. Menopause occurs due to the decline in reproductive hormones; this change affects the body during the 'transition' period. Menopause may also be triggered by a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or primary ovarian insufficiency. Finally, menopause can be mentally and emotionally taxing, since it signals a major life change, not to mention the beginning of a woman's inability to bear children.
During perimenopause, it's recommended to begin regular doctor visits, since there's a number of preventative procedures that should take place around this time, like a colonoscopy, mammography, lipids screening, thyroid test, and breast and pelvic exams.
To help mitigate the side effects of menopause, a doctor may recommend hormone therapy, mainly in the form of estrogen supplements. Vaginal dryness can be irritating, and there are creams and hormones to help reverse this. Sometimes a low dose of antidepressants can help with mood swings, some medications can help with hot flashes, and other medications can help prevent or treat osteoporosis which becomes more likely after menopause. Treatments will change over time as menopause progresses. Eventually, they may all be eliminated. So there's that silver lining!
There are also a number of non-prescription treatment options available. It's possible to track symptoms triggers. For example, caffeine or alcohol may trigger hot flashes, so once these triggers are identified, they can be avoided. Over-the-counter lubricants can help lessen vaginal dryness, and staying sexually active can enhance blood flow to the region. Women experiencing menopause should exercise early in the day and avoid caffeine at night to help prevent sleep disruptions. They can also practice calming exercises, like meditation or deep breathing. Continuing to exercise regularly, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking to help prevent aggravating symptoms are all good ways to keep those symptoms at bay.
Menopause is a natural part of life and the aging process. However, symptoms thankfully don't last forever. Perimenopause symptoms may include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and weight gain and usually appear the year before menopause starts. Once menopause begins, the reproductive hormones are altered and the body makes less, resulting in the hormonal changes that cause the physical and mental distress. There are a variety of prescription and natural treatment options including estrogen supplements, a balanced diet, and meditation, and a doctor can help identify which work best for each patient. It's important to stay physically active and eat well to help maintain balance, and certain medications like antidepressants and hormones may help alleviate severe symptoms.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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