Menopause happens when a woman hasn’t menstruated in 12 successive months and is not pregnant. It normally starts between the ages of 45 and 55 but can start before or after this age range.
Menopause can cause uncomfortable signs, like hot flashes and weight gain. For many females, medicines are not necessary for menopause.
Most women first have menopause symptoms about 4 years earlier than their last period. Symptoms continue until about 4 years after a woman’s last period. A few women have menopause symptoms for even 10 years before menopause occurs, and 1 in 10 women have menopausal symptoms for 12 years following their final period.
The average age for menopause is 51, however it may arise 2 years earlier for African American and Latina women.
There are many factors that help determine whether you have menopause or not, such as genetics and reproductive health. Perimenopause generally happens earlier than menopause. Perimenopause is a time when your hormones begin to change to prepare for menopause. It may happen from just a few months to a couple of years. Many women initiate perimenopause at some point after their middle 40s. Other women skip perimenopause and enter menopause instantly.
About 1 percent of women start menopause earlier than age 40, and about 5 percent have menopause between the ages of 40 and 45. This is referred to as early or premature menopause, or primary ovarian insufficiency.
For the period of perimenopause, menstrual durations become irregular. Your intervals could also be late, or you may also skip one or more intervals. Menstrual flow may also be heavier or lighter.
Menopause is experienced as an absence of menstruation for one full year.
Post menopause refers to the years after menopause has started.
Every woman’s menopause experience is different. Symptoms are most of the time more severe when menopause happens suddenly or over a shorter interval of time. Situations that have an impact on reproductive health, like cancer or hysterectomy, or lifestyle habits, like smoking, can increase the severity and duration of symptoms.
The usual early signs of perimenopause are:
- Less frequent menstruation
- Heavier or lighter periods
- Hot flashes, night sweats, and flushing
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory issues
- Reduced libido, or sex drive
- Dry skin, mouth, and eyes
- Increased urination
- Sore or tender breasts
- Urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Low muscle mass
- Painful or stiff joints
- Reduced bone mass
- Less full breasts
- Hair thinning or loss
Your doctor will acquire a medical history and do a physical exam. He or she may request for tests such as the following:
- FSH and estrogen levels
- Thyroid function tests
- Blood lipid profile
- Liver function tests
- Kidney function tests
- Testosterone, progesterone, prolactin, estradiol, and chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) tests
You may require treatment if your symptoms are risky or disturbing your daily activities. Hormone treatment is an effective treatment in females below the age of 60, or within 10 years of menopause onset, for the management of:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal atrophy
Other medicines that are sometimes used for menopause symptoms include:
- Topical minoxidil for hair thinning and hair loss
- Anti-dandruff shampoos like ketoconazole and zinc pyrithione for hair loss
- Eflornithine cream for unwanted hair growth
- Topical lubricants and anti-inflammatory agents for dry eyes
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), more commonly paroxetine for hot flashes, anxiety, and depression
- Nonhormonal vaginal lubricants and moisturizers
- Low-dose estrogen-based vaginal lubricants for vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
- Prophylactic antibiotics for UTI
- Sleep drugs for insomnia
- Denosumab, teriparatide, raloxifene, or calcitonin for postmenstrual osteoporosis