Menopause is an changing phase in a woman's life - a time when her menstrual periods come to an end. An important phase in the aging process, menopause can occur anywhere between 45 and 60 though it is not uncommon for menopause to set in by the late 30s and early 40s. Menopause brings with it some symptoms and conditions that vary from woman to woman. Along with problems such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, weight gain and mood swings, many a woman goes through bouts of depression and anxiety.
Each woman is different
Menopause symptoms can be different for different women. The duration and severity can also depend on a host of factors. Erratic menstrual cycles are often accompanied by mental confusion and foggy thinking. The degree of discomfort is usually related to the degree with which the hormones are out of balance. The menopausal process occurs over a period of time. There is no single test to reliably predict when a woman will undergo menopause. The early menopausal symptoms are an indication of the impeding condition. You might notice:
Another menopause symptom is urinary incontinence. Many women notice thinning hair and dry skin around this time. Some women notice abnormal and excessive bleeding during early onset of menopause. Low estrogen levels can increase the risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. Weight gain is common during this period. The weight distribution tends to follow male pattern - increased weight in the midsection. The changing hormone levels cause this shift in the distribution of body fat. Estrogen helps in maintaining bone density and preventing clogged arteries. Osteoporosis can result after menopause on account of the depleted estrogen content. Women can also be vulnerable to heart conditions after the onset of menopause.
Menopause Hot Flashes
The depleting estrogen levels bring about hot flashes that are uncomfortable. A woman might experience sudden waves of heat and sweating. Hot weather and other stimulants such as alcohol, stress, chocolate and spicy food can trigger hot flashes. Hot flashes during menopause may occur due to a surge in brain hormone that affects the part of the brain regulating body temperature. Hot flashes during menopause can bring intense bouts of perspiration and palpitations. Most menopause hot flashes last about 5 minutes though they can even last up to 20 minutes. Hot flashes during menopause can severely affect a woman's work and social life.
Perimenopause or perimenopause refers to the period leading to cessation of the menstrual cycle. This period can range from a few months to a few years. Symptoms of perimenopause begin to appear around the late 30s or early 40s. The hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness appear around this time. Peri menopause is a transitional stage when the gradual decrease of estrogen starts.
Changes in the menstrual cycle might occur this stage. The menstrual cycle may decrease thereby bringing about more frequent periods. Other symptoms of perimenopause are sleep problems, breast tenderness and vaginal dryness.
Instances of early menopause or premature menopause can result on account of an autoimmune disorder. Ovarian failure occurs predominantly due to antibodies created by the body to attack itself. As a result, the endometrium or ovarian tissue is attacked. Hysterectomy is another common cause for early onset of menopause. The loss of both ovaries results in depleted levels of estrogen and progesterone thereby triggering off menopause symptoms.
Women who have undergone radiation treatment may experience early menopause since the ovarian function may be impaired due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Sometimes, premature menopause is hereditary. Hypothyroidism is noticed in many a premenopausal woman. Since the symptoms of thyroid disease and menopause are similar, the thyroid condition tends to go unnoticed.
Another common symptom noticed during menopause is that the tissue lining of the vagina becomes thinner on account of the reduced estrogen. Menopausal women experience uncomfortable vaginal dryness and itchiness. This leads to painful and uncomfortable intercourse. Infection and painful urination are other problems during menopause.
Menopause and Depression
Erratic hormone levels cause menopause symptoms of depression. Lowered estrogen levels seem to affect the levels of neurotransmitters and cause a shift in the chemical environment. This leads to mood swings and depression. Since this period in a woman's life coincides with children leaving home as well as mid life changes in career and relationships, it is a stressful time. Anxiety and difficulty in concentrating as well as overreactions to minor upsets are also noticed as menopausal symptoms.
Get a grip on yourself
Combat insomnia and hot flashes by keeping your bedroom cool and wearing lighter clothing. Reduce stress by relaxation techniques such as yoga. Make exercise a non-negotiable aspect of your life, if you haven't already. Exercise helps keep your bones and muscles strong and can be therapeutic too. Quit smoking. Avoid very spicy foods and caffeinated drinks. Incorporate plant estrogens by including soy into your diet. Include lean meat, fish, pulses and milk for adequate Vitamin B. St John's Wort and Black cohosh are prescribed herbs to treat various menopausal symptoms.