The menopausal transition is a natural part of aging for women and is neither a disease nor a disorder. Your doctor officially diagnoses you with Menopause in Winter Park after you have gone 12 months without your menstrual periods. Some women have no troublesome menopausal symptoms and may even be relieved since they no longer have to worry about periods and getting pregnant. However, other women may experience troublesome symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. While you can’t evade menopause, the good news is that medication and lifestyle changes can help you manage the symptoms. Here is how you transition to menopause.
The menopausal transition
The transition to menopause often begins at ages 45 to 55 and usually lasts seven years, but the duration can be as long as 14 years. Perimenopause can start at different ages – some women start this transition in their 40s and others as early as their mid-30s. Various factors such as race, ethnicity, and smoking determine the duration of the menopausal transition. That period in which you transition to menopause is called perimenopause. Estrogen levels rise and fall unevenly during this time, and your menstrual cycle may lengthen or shorten. Once your periods stop for 12 months consecutively, you have marked the end of perimenopause and the start of menopause.
The signs and symptoms of menopause
During menopause, estrogen levels decline, resulting in various symptoms, most of which are mild and can be treated by lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine. Some women may not need treatment, but the symptoms can be severe. The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person, and the most common ones include:
Changes in estrogen levels may result in hot flashes lasting for several years. A hot flash is a sudden surge of heat that spreads through your chest, neck, and face. What follows is usually heavy sweating or cold shivering. Hot flashes can be mild or severe enough to disrupt your sleep. The frequency varies – hot flashes can happen several times a day or once a week.
Change in your periods is often the first sign women notice during menopause. Usually, you may skip your menstrual periods for a month or more when they return. The cycles also shorten, so your periods tend to be close together. All these changes are expected, but to ensure there is no underlying problem, consult your doctor if you have heavy bleeding or if your periods last for more than a week.
Incontinence and vaginal problems
As estrogen levels decline, your vagina becomes less lubricated and elastic, causing pain when engaging in sexual intercourse. During menopause, you are also more susceptible to vaginal and urinary infections. Due to loss of tissue tone, you may leak urine as you exercise or due to mild stresses when you sneeze, cough, or laugh.
Due to less estrogen production, you lose more bone than your body renews, putting you at risk of osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis, you can easily fracture a bone in your body.
If you have skipped your periods or are experiencing menopausal symptoms, reserve a session with your doctor at Contemporary Women’s Care for diagnosis to determine if it’s menopause.