What is Menopause ?
Menopause is a natural biological process in a woman’s life, when the menstrual cycle ceases permanently. It is usually when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
It usually occurs at an average age of 45-52. After menopause, much less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are produced by the body. It is not a disease but a normal stage in a woman’s life.
Menopause is actually a point in time of a woman’s life. The symptoms of menopause may occur years before the actual menopause and this transition period is termed as perimenopause. Some of the menopause symptoms are :
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Sweating in the night
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
During perimenopause, despite the irregularity in periods, pregnancy is possible in some cases.
Menopause brings with it changes in the levels of female hormones estrogen and progesterone: This in turn can lead to a variety of complications such as
- Cardiovascular Diseases : The risk of heart disease increases after menopause.
- Osteoporosis : Bone density decreases after menopause, which in turn increases the risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Urinary Incontinence : Decrease in the levels of the hormone estrogen, causes thinning of vaginal and urethral tissues. This causes a frequent and intense urge to urinate .It can also cause urine to accidentally leak out with laughing or sneezing.
- Painful intercourse : Vaginal dryness and thinning of the skin can cause discomfort during intercourse.
- Weight Gain : Decrease in metabolism results in weight gain.
It is considerably hard to determine the exact time for menopause as hormone levels fluctuate in an individual from one day to the next and blood tests cannot predict when a woman is going through the menopausal transition.
Observing the lack of menstrual periods for 12 months is the only known way for menopause diagnosis .
Even though menopause is natural and not a disease, treatment is still required for those with severe symptoms. Some of the menopause treatment options that doctors recommend and prescribe are:
- Hormone treatment and therapy (HT)
Low estrogen levels which result in hot flashes, vaginal dryness etc. can be remedied by this treatment. But the combined estrogen and progesterone hormone therapy used on a long-term basis may have its own side effects. It is recommended to use HT in small effective doses for the shortest possible time.
- Oral contraceptive
This is used to treat the irregular vaginal bleeding during perimenopause.
SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) is found to be effective in women undergoing hot flashes during menopause.
- Vaginal Lubricants
Patients who do not agree with the intake of oral or vaginal pills have another option of using a variety of over-the-counter vaginal lubricants.
A healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and proper nutrition can avoid most of the symptoms mentioned above.