Menopause: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
The natural biological process that occurs at the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles is known as the menopause. Women aged 45+ who have gone 12 months without a menstrual period are typically diagnosed as being in the first stage of the menopause.
While menopause has physical and emotional symptoms, there are many effective treatments available. Although a woman will no longer have her monthly periods or be able to get pregnant naturally, it can offer an opportunity to experience a new lease of life.
Menopause – What You Need To Know
The menopausal transition is a gradual process that can take from as little as one year to as long as 10 years. Women who are in tune with their body will notice their periods becoming lighter and farther apart, before they eventually end.
While the onset of menopause is a natural experience for most women, for some it can occur suddenly, due to the removal of the ovaries, radiation/chemotherapy, gland disorders, or severe illness.
To help overcome many of the common but severe symptoms, some menopausal woman seek the help of endocrinologists that offer hormone treatment and endocrine surgery.
Menopause is a natural part of aging. When a woman’s ovaries no longer produce eggs, the production of oestrogen and progesterone hormones (which control the menstrual cycle and ovulation) starts to decrease, and menopause begins.
Women who are nearing menopause often experience common symptoms such as:
- Hot flushes
- Excessive blushing
- Night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Sore breasts
- Increased urination frequency
- Mood swings
Once menopause kicks in, you may also have other symptoms including:
- Racing heart
- Joint and muscle pains
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Loss of libido
As you begin to experience these symptoms, you will transition through the three stages of menopause:
The perimenopause stage begins several years before menopause happens, when the production of oestrogen begins its natural process of slowing down. This stage can last between 1 and 4 years.
By the time that it’s been a year since you had a period, your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and making oestrogen. As a result, you are now in the second stage of menopause.
Menopausal symptoms like hot flushes usually ease once you reach the third stage, known as post menopause. However, due to the loss of oestrogen, as you get older, you may have other health risks to consider, like osteoporosis.
Premature & Induced Menopause
If you have an immune system disorder, or have undergone a medical procedure, you could have a premature menopause.
If you’re under 40 years of age and your ovaries have prematurely stopped releasing eggs, premature ovarian failure will occur.
For some women who have a history of cancer or endometriosis, the removal of the ovaries to induce surgical menopause, can be life-saving. If you’ve had radiation or chemotherapy, this can damage your ovaries. Consulting with endocrinologists can help you find the best course of treatment.
If you’ve been keeping track of your periods, you’ll probably be able to spot when you’re going into menopause. If you suspect that you’re menopausal, a visit to your doctor is recommended.
Your doctor will perform a menopause blood test to check on:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)– which rises as you near menopause.
- Estradiol will show your oestrogen production levels.
- Thyroid hormones signify any problems with your thyroid gland, which can affect your period, and cause false symptoms.
- Your Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) will provide information about the reserve of eggs in your ovaries.
Many of the symptoms disappear over time, but if they’re causing problems, you can opt for one of the following treatments:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medication that replaces the hormones that your body is no longer making naturally. On the upside, HRT can help with hot flashes and vaginal problems, and maintain strong bones. The downside to this treatment is that you could be at higher risk of health problems like heart disease or breast cancer.
- Topical hormone therapy is an oestrogen cream or gel that you apply to your vagina to help overcome dryness.
- Nonhormone medications that are also known as selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) can treat a number of symptoms, including hot flushes and vaginal dryness.
- To keep bones strong, you may be prescribed medication or vitamin D supplements.
- Endocrinologists can also perform endocrine surgery to ease severe symptoms.
You may opt to treat menopause naturally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating nutritious food, staying well hydrated, and practicing wellbeing techniques that will help in managing your symptoms.
To speak to a GP call us on 0207 079 2100 or email [email protected].