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Overview

Menopause is a natural occurrence in all women.  Menopause is clinically described as the lack of a menstrual cycle for twelve consecutive months.  Which means a woman doesn’t have her period.  Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 35 and 55, but can occur earlier or later.  A good indication of when a woman can expect to go through this transition is what age her mother and grandmother experienced it.

A woman has a menstrual cycle every 21 – 28 days and usually lasts 5 – 7 days.  When a woman begins to experience signs of her menstrual cycle changing can be a symptom of menopause.  The cycle can become longer or shorter, more frequent, and even the flow can be affected by becoming lighter or heavier.

When menopause signs first begin, up to the time in which menopause is completed by the consecutive 12 months of no cycle is called perimenopause.  Perimenopause is not known as a clinical term but its use is common.

1. Menopause: What You Should Know?

Menopause is a very personal experience for each woman, and no two women will be affected in the same way.  They may share common symptoms but the way in which they handle those symptoms and how mild or severe they may be varies for each woman.

A woman can expect to be in the perimenopause transition for quite some time.  It can last up to ten years before completing menopause (01).

During this time there are some symptoms you should become aware of and expect.

  1. Irregular Menstrual Cycles – like previously stated there may become a change in your cycle.  It can be affected in different ways.
  2. Hot Flashes – are a warming and sometimes sweating feeling that comes over the body mostly affecting the head and chest.
  3. Night Sweats – this occurs at night and can become severe enough not only to soak your night clothes but bedding as well.
  4. Mood Swings – mood swings are common in most women.  You may be happy one minute and crying the next.

These are just a few of the symptoms you may experience once the menopausal transition begins.

A hormonal imbalance begins to occur in the body because the ovaries which produce hormones begin to decrease in making the hormones.  This imbalance can create other symptoms like insomnia, weight gain, and other medical conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.  Some women may become depressed.

There are treatments available for most all symptoms of menopause.  Menopause is a condition and not a disease so you treat the symptoms.  Herbal and natural remedies have been known to relieve menopausal symptoms without the side effects that are associated with conventional drugs and medicines

Some women may experience early menopause which is prior to age 30.  Most of these cases do not occur naturally but are induced by some other cause like hysterectomy or treatments for some kinds of cancers, like radiation and chemotherapy, and sometimes genetics can cause early menopause. Women who experience early menopause can and most likely will experience the same symptoms as a woman who is perimenopausal.

2. Menopause Symptoms

2.1. What to Expect

Menopause affects each woman differently.  There is a variety of symptoms associated with menopause, some of which are:

2.2. Irregular Menstrual Cycles

One of the first things women notice is their menstrual cycles become irregular.  They may become longer or shorter, or they may become heavier or lighter inflow.  Sometimes there is a mix of the two.

Having an irregular menstrual cycle doesn’t mean you are perimenopausal, an irregular cycle can be related to many different medical conditions.  It is important to get a doctor’s evaluation to confirm a perimenopausal condition.

2.3. Hot Flashes or Night Sweats

A hot flash is a body feeling very warm especially the head and chest sometimes causing perspiration.  It is believed women experience these symptoms because of the change in hormone production from the ovaries during perimenopause.

The feeling can last between thirty seconds to a couple of minutes.  They can be experienced any time of day or night and can be experienced more than a few times a day.  Night sweats occur usually at night and are a drenching of the body.  One who experiences a night sweat is usually awakening with soaked clothes and sometimes drenched bed clothes as well.

Hot flashes and night sweats usually stop within five years but can be experienced for up to ten years.  They usually start to decline in intensity by frequency.  These symptoms vary and range in each individual.

2.4. Vaginal Changes

The vagina changes as the production of hormones decline during the menopause transition.  It’s elasticity lessons, it can become thinner and drier.  Some women may experience pain and irritation during or after sexual intercourse.

2.5. Urinary Disorders

The declining production of hormones can also affect the urethra.  The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the bladder.  Like the vagina, the urethra can lose some of its elasticity.  It can also become dry and thinner.

These conditions make it more susceptible to urinary tract infections, it can cause incontinence, as well as, the feeling to urinate more frequently.  The inconsistency is can be more intense when laughing or coughing or when you lift heavy objects.  Sometimes you may experience leakage during these times.

2.6. Emotional Changes

Many emotional changes in women during perimenopause is difficult to justify menopause as the only culprit causing the emotional change.  Changes like fatigue and irritability which are common symptoms of menopause can also be caused by night sweats and hot flashes, and can also be caused by stress from another situation going on in their life.

Memory loss and confusion are also symptoms of menopause but these symptoms can also be brought on by other means.  Mood swings have been related to the hormone change, but again may also be caused by another disorder.  It is very difficult to prove the emotional changes a woman experience is only being experienced due to menopause transition.

2.7. Miscellaneous Changes

Some perimenopausal women experience getting acne for the first time or a worsen adult acne in those who have had an acne problem. There is always the middle age spread, a degree of weight gain, mostly in the waist and abdomen.

The skin may become drier, wrinkled, or change in texture.  As estrogen levels may decline, testosterone levels may elevate causing some women to develop hair on the chin, lip or chest.

3. Signs of Menopause

When a woman begins menopause she may notice her menstrual cycle becoming shorter or longer or she may notice a change in blood flow.   The cycles may become different in more than one way at a time.

The age at which these signs start may vary just like the starting of the menstrual cycle age.  You may begin to experience hot flashes or become very moody and emotional.  You may cry at the drop of a hat or over something very trivial.  This period is sometimes referred to as perimenopause.  Perimenopause isn’t a true medical term but it is used to describe the period of time from the onset of menopausal symptoms to the completion of menopause.

Menopausal symptoms vary for each individual and it can last for up to ten years before actual menopause.  Some women find the need for medications to help reduce symptoms, while others may need hormone replacement drugs to control their symptoms.

Sometimes a doctor will prescribe birth control to regulate the menstrual cycle during perimenopause.  A woman’s experience of her last menstrual cycle is also different.  Some will just stop while others may have flooding of flow, some compare this flow gush to hemorrhaging.

Post-menopause, a true clinical term, refers to all the time after the menstrual cycle stops. Post menopausal women are more susceptible to a range of conditions due to the lack of hormones.  It may be necessary for some individuals to have some type of hormone replacement drugs to maintain a normal lifestyle.

Doctors will check the age of when your mother and grandmother went through menopause to estimate what age you can expect to begin menopause.  Again it would only be an estimation because it is different for every woman.

8. Diabetes and Menopause

Most women don’t realize the relationship between diabetes and menopause.  When in fact the symptoms of menopause can be the same as diabetes, in some instances.  Diabetes can also occur in menopausal women, especially if they become pregnant.

When a woman experiences symptoms like hot flashes and moodiness, these symptoms can also be symptoms of hypoglycemia.  Hypoglycemia is the type of diabetes when the blood sugar level in the blood becomes low.  Usually, a quick intake of sugar will for hypoglycemia stop the episode and control the symptoms.

Type II diabetes can occur in menopausal women and menopausal women who become pregnant.  A pregnant menopausal woman is prone to type II diabetes.  The symptoms of both of this diabetes can resemble the symptoms of menopause.

However, a common symptom of menopause, weight gain, is not a symptom of diabetes. Usually, a person who suffers from diabetes will experience weight loss versus the weight gain of menopause.

Women who are menopausal in their mid to late 40′s are more susceptible to diabetes.  As the body changes during menopause and there is a decrease of female hormones being produced makes women in their forties a better candidates.

8.1 See A Healthcare Professional

It is very important to see a healthcare professional at the first signs of diabetes or menopause so a thorough medical exam can be performed for a correct diagnosis. There are some cases where a menopausal woman may become diabetic (inflicted with diabetes), and as she completes the menopause transition can become diabetes free.

In both situations, diabetes or menopause, diet and exercise both play an important role in maintaining the condition and preventing and/or reducing the symptoms.  Exercising a few times a week can reduce symptoms and make way for a better and healthier body.

A change in your diet, by increasing fruits and vegetables, as well as, other supplements may have the same results. There are products on the market that can relieve symptoms of diabetes as well as menopausal symptoms.

Herbal and natural remedies have been used to treat both of these conditions with positive outcomes.  Herbal and natural remedies are being sought by many patients because they don’t carry the side effects of conventional medications.  However, conventional medications are very productive in their treating the same ailments.

9. Menopause A Contributing Factor To Heart Disease

A known fact is that heart disease is the number one killer in women.  Women who are post-menopausal (completed the menopausal transition), have a doubled risk of heart disease.  This is mainly because of the lack of production of the estrogen hormone from the ovaries.

Estrogen helps regulate cholesterol.  By keeping the HDL’s (good cholesterol) and the LDL’s (bad cholesterol) regulated the chance of heart disease lessens.  Raising LDL’s can clog arteries, causing a blockage which can lead to a heart attack.

Heart attacks are more severe in women than men.  This is mainly because women do not experience the classic symptom of a heart attack which is chest pain.  Women experience more subtle symptoms like fatigue, heartburn, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, and anxiety.

These subtle symptoms are usually overlooked, or they may be misdiagnosed.  These symptoms are common in women for being stress related or from a busy lifestyle.  They can sometimes be related to another illness.  Since women have a higher tolerance to these symptoms they are often ignored.  Which can attribute the higher death rate.

Menopause also has some of the same symptoms, and as with menopause, some factors that need to be considered, when getting a diagnosis for heart disease is age, family medical history, and overall current medical condition. Although, menopause is a natural occurrence and can’t be prevented, there are some things that may help in preventing heart disease.

One of the first things and that is classified as the leading risk factor for heart disease is to quit smoking.  There are smoking cessation therapies that can be very helpful with this difficult addiction.  Talk to a health care professional.

Stress causes the blood vessels to constrict and increases blood pressure so reducing stress would be helpful.  Short walks, deep breathing are stress relievers.

Helpful Tips in Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

Watching your diet and keeping a healthy weight is also helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease.  Adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet will not only increase vitamins and minerals but can aid in weight reduction.

Being overweight causes stress on the heart to work harder and use more oxygen to work, reducing your weight can reduce the overworking process and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Exercise is also helpful in reducing the risk.  You don’t, however, want to do heavy workouts, you will want to moderate your exercise routine.  Pushing yourself isn’t always healthy for your cardiovascular system or muscles.

Menopause can be a contributing factor to heart disease.  It not only changes your body it has an effect on your mental state as well.  It is very important that you talk to a healthcare professional when it comes to your condition and treatments for you.

The healthcare professional will work with you to find the best treatment for your menopausal symptoms and help make a treatment plan to reduce your symptoms and help prevent heart disease.  Remember everyone is different in their symptoms of menopause and their treatments can/may be different.

10. Why Menopausal Woman Gain Weight

A common factor in menopausal women is weight gain.  The weight gain that is associated with menopause usually affects the mid section, not the hips and buttocks.  This weight gain is usually caused by the hormonal imbalance that occurs during menopause.

When the hormones produced by the ovaries begin to decline, progesterone is the first to decrease.  When the hormone production from the ovaries declines, estrogen is formed in the fat that’s produced from the calories you intake.  The fat is usually formed in the abdomen and that’s why it is so hard to keep a well-maintained weight.

There are natural and herbal products on the market that can help you sustain a normal weight.  They can also help provide hormone replacement which will aid in weight loss.  The extra pounds around the middle section of the body can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular conditions because of the metabolic changes.

Menopausal weight gain is a symptom of metabolic changes in the body.  This is caused by hormonal imbalance.  Estrogen, progesterone, growth hormone, and cortisol are all affected.  You can help keep these hormones balanced by beginning a natural hormone treatment, which can be purchased in any health store.

When the hormones are balanced they help prevent weight gain and can even help you lose weight.

Estrogen causes weight gain in menopausal women.  When the ovaries decline to produce estrogen the body works overtime to turn the calories into fat where estrogen can be made.

Progesterone is the water hormone.  When the decrease of progesterone occurs you can become bloated and retain water.  Although it is not a weight gain as we know it, it aids in feeling fat.

Growth Hormone is a protein that helps balance the fat and muscle in the body.  When the growth hormone is imbalanced it can make it difficult to adjust the fat and muscle making weight loss difficult.  The loss of deep sleep in menopausal women reduces the growth hormone.

Cortisol is the hormone affected by stress related to the thyroid.  When the thyroid becomes overactive the cortisol levels increase causing bloating.  Insomnia in menopausal women can also have an effect on cortisol levels by stimulating cravings and increasing your appetite causing weight gain.

Testosterone also affects menopausal women’s weight gain.  Testosterone affects the way the body creates muscle mass.  Muscle mass burns fat and when it declines it causes weight gain.

It is important for women in the menopause transition to know a few of the most common reasons women gain weight at this time.  They are:

  • Hormone imbalance
  • over-eating
  • medications
  • Lack of movement
  • A slow metabolism

It would be in the best interest of any woman going through the menopausal transition to begin a counter action against this weight gain.  If you begin an exercise plan, change your diet to a healthier one, start a vitamin supplement and/or medications or herbs that can help keep your metabolism up and hormone levels balanced, you can have the upper hand on menopausal weight gain.

11. Menopause and Pregnancy

Most women begin the menopausal transition in their 30′s.  By the time they hit 40, they feel safe from pregnancy but in fact, they shouldn’t.  We’ve all heard the phrase, change of life baby, and indeed it is a strong possibility to become pregnant during menopause.

It is true that women in their 20′s and early 30′s have a better chance of getting pregnant than that of a woman in perimenopause, but perimenopausal women are still at risk.  When the menstrual cycle begins to change or not come at all, it is very difficult to predict whether fertilization can occur or not.

A menstrual cycle begins with the brain telling the body to ovulate.  An ovary will release an egg.  The egg will travel the fallopian tube and while this process is happening the uterine wall will become thick with blood.

If the egg gets fertilized it will attach to the uterine wall where it will begin to grow.  If the egg doesn’t get fertilized the uterus flushes it, thus causing the menstrual cycle.  A menstrual cycle occurs in pre-menopausal women every 21 – 28 days.

A change of life pregnancy holds some risks not only for the baby but for the mother as well.  The baby may develop some chromosome abnormalities.  The baby can be premature and/or be born with low birth weight.

The mother may experience a breach of birth or develop osteoporosis.  Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body in many ways, and the older you get your body continues to experience changes of its own, so adding a pregnancy in middle age usually ends with an abortion.

11.1. Chances of a Woman Becoming Pregnant

Although the chances of a woman becoming pregnant in her 40′s is reduced by 50 %, pregnancies still can occur.  The older you get the probability of pregnancy decreases, but it’s not impossible until complete menopause when a woman is then infertile.

Although, a woman in perimenopause does not have the luxury of knowing if she will have her cycle because they can become so unpredictable.  She can skip a month or two before she has one.  This is why some perimenopausal women will decide to use an oral contraceptive, like birth control pills.

Not only does birth control pills prevent pregnancy, even the change of life pregnancy, but it also regulates the menstrual cycle, as well as, provide some hormone replacement a perimenopausal woman may lose.

If a change of life pregnancy concerns you, you may want to consider some kind of contraceptive.  Whether it is birth control pills or not there are other means of contraception, like refraining from intercourse, the male partner may get a vasectomy, tubal ligation may be an option, as well as, over the counter contraceptives like birth control creams, condoms, or gels, among others.

It is always best to discuss any treatments and/or your condition with a healthcare professional.  They can assist you in what treatment or treatments may be best for you.

12. Menopause Before 40 (Premature Menopause)

Menopause usually affects women between the ages of 35 and 55.  Most women will complete the menopausal transition by the age of 55. Menopause is a natural occurrence that happens to the female body.  However, some women may experience menopause in their 20′s or 30′s, this is often referred to as premature menopause.

Premature menopause is when a woman at a younger age experiences menopause symptoms.  Premature menopause has three common causes.

12.1. Hysterectomy

The most common cause for premature menopause is a surgical procedure, such as a hysterectomy.  When the ovaries are removed menopause begins. A woman can experience premature menopause if she is undergoing treatment for cancer, such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Genetics can also be the culprit for premature menopause.

Most women can estimate the time in which they may experience the change, by knowing the age of their mother and grandmother was when they went through the change.

No matter what the cause is, though, most women who experience premature menopause symptoms are beside themselves, wondering why me?  They are often left confused as to what is happening in their body and how they are to manage the symptoms they are experiencing.

Premature menopausal women have the same symptoms as that of an older woman going through the menopausal transition.

In some cases of premature menopause, it may be necessary to have prescribed medications to control and maintain symptoms.

Some signs of early menopause symptoms include the same symptoms as regular menopause symptoms like hot flashes, moodiness, and night sweats.  You may experience an urgency to use the restroom, or you may become irritable for no reason.  These conditions all can be menopause symptoms.

You may experience one, two, or all symptoms, you can experience them by themselves, separately, or in combination with each other.  Many times one symptom will bring forth another symptom like having night sweats or incontinence can be very discerning causing mood swings and irritability.

It is usually recommended that any woman experiencing menopause should do some preventative measures and it is said to be beneficial in premature menopausal women as well.  Exercise is vital in keeping the bones regenerated and a relaxed mind.  A good healthy diet can reduce hot flashes and night sweats as well as promote good health.

12.2. Vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness and decreased libido are often symptoms of menopausal women.  These symptoms can be very upsetting, especially in younger women.  There are treatments available to help aid in these situations, like KY Jelly, or other vaginal lubricants.  There are also vaginal estrogen creams, pills, and rings available to not only help in hormone replacement but help prevent bone loss and provides lubrication.

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Menopause: Definition, Symptoms, Treatment & Relieving

Dr. Ozair

Written by Dr. Ozair (CEO of SignSymptom.com) as physician writers are physicians who write creatively in fields outside their practice of medicine.