Menopause: Symptoms and Causes

What happens during menopause?

Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful, Psycho, the seven stages of menopause can be enough to haunt a woman as she makes the transition into the phase of life called Menopause.

Menopause refers to a point in time that follows one year after the complete cessation of menstruation and the postmenopause describes years following that point. The average age of women experiencing their final menstrual period is 51.5 years[range between 45-55 years] but a halt to menses from ovarian failure may occur at any age.

Several environmental, genetic, and surgical influences may alter ovarian ageing. For example, smoking increases the age of menopause by approximately 2 years. Chemotherapy, pelvic radiation, and ovarian surgery may also lead to earlier menopause. During the menopausal transition, more erratic fluctuations in female reproductive hormones lead to an array of physical and psychological symptoms---these include:

MENSTRUAL PATTERN - shorter cycles/longer cycles/irregular bleeding

VASOMOTOR - hot flushes/night sweats/sleep disturbances 

SOMATIC - headache/dizziness/palpitations/breast pain-enlargement/joint aches and backpain

SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION - vaginal dryness/decreased libido/dyspareunia

PSYCHOLOGICAL?COGNITIVE - worsening premenstrual syndrome/depression/irritability/mood swings/poor concentration/poor memory

OTHERS - urinary incontinence/dry itchy skin/weight gain

Common complications of menopause which a woman has to look out for are:

  • Vulvovaginal atrophy

  • Painful intercourse

  • Slower metabolic function

  • Weaker bones with reduced mass and strength

  • Mood or sudden emotional changes

  • Cataracts

  • Periodontal disease

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Heart or blood vessel disease

It is important to consult a gynaecologist if you are facing menopause symptoms affecting your personal or professional life. Some new tests have recently been approved to help determine whether a woman has entered menopause or is getting close to entering menopause. These tests are helpful to women who show symptoms of pre-menopause which can have adverse health impacts. Early menopause can increase the risk of osteoporosis, fracture, heart disease, cognitive changes, vaginal changes and loss of libido, and mood changes.

Thyroid function tests,blood lipid profile,liver and kidney function tests,estradiol,progesterone,testosterone,prolactin.

Treatment is directed to the symptoms. Hormone Replacement Therapy is an effective treatment in women under the age of 60 or within 10 years of the age of menopause. Other alternative medications are also used in directed to specific symptoms.

Some at-home tips to manage menopause symptoms:

  • Wear loose clothing especially during night time. 

  • Carry a portable fan to cool you down when feeling flushed.

  • Exercise regularly to maintain weight

  • Communicate your needs --talk to a therapist or psychologist, maintain a good friend and family circle and discuss your feelings of anxiety, mood changes etc.

  • Supplement diet with calcium, magnesium and Vit D supplements

  • Practice relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation

  • Take care of skin and manage sleep issues with OTC sleep medications 

  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol use

  • Use natural supplements and nutrients like soy, vitamin E, isoflavone, melatonin, flax seeds

With medical advancements, average life expectancy has increased, and most women can now expect to live at least one-third of their lives in the menopause. So it is important to address their issues so that they can lead healthy and productive lives.

The aim of hormonal and nonhormonal treatment in menopause is to ensure that the woman doesn’t pause her life activities--in short, me-no-pause should be her motto! 

 

Dr. Leena N Sreedhar

HOD - Department Of Academics And Research

Consultant - Mother & Child Care, Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, Delhi

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