Everything You Should Know About Menopause

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Menopause officially begins when you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without menstruating. Symptoms like night sweats are common right before, during, and after menopause. Treatment can help manage them.

After menopause, you will have no more periods. In the United States, menopause happens on average at age 52 years, but it may occur earlier or later.

Menopause can cause symptoms such as hot flashes and weight changes. Treatment can help manage these symptoms.

Stages of menopause
Menopause symptoms usually start about 4 years before the final period. Symptoms can continue for several years, depending on the person.

Perimenopause is when your hormones begin to change before menopause. It often begins after the mid-40s and can last anywhere from a few months to several years.

Early menopause is when menopause occurs at ages 40–45 years. About 5% of females experience early menopause.

Premature menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency is when menopause begins before age 40 years.

What are the symptoms of menopause?
Everyone’s experience of menopause is unique. Some people experience severe and wide-ranging symptoms, while others may barely notice the change.

Apart from the presence or absence of menstruation, the symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause are similar.

The most common early symptoms of perimenopause are:

less frequent menstruation
heavier or lighter periods than usual
vasomotor symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, and flushing
Hot flashes last on average 5.2 years, starting around a year before menopause. They usually lessen after menopause but can persist for up to 20 years. They affect 70–80%Trusted Source of people experiencing menopause.

Other common symptoms of menopause include:insomnia
vaginal dryness
weight gain
depression
anxiety
difficulty concentrating
memory problems
reduced libido, or sex drive
dry skin, mouth, and eyes
increased urination
sore or tender breasts
headaches
racing heart
urinary tract infections (UTIs)
reduced muscle mass
painful or stiff joints
reduced bone mass
less full breasts
hair thinning or loss
increased hair growth on other areas of the body, such as the face, neck, chest, and upper back

Complications
Around the same time that menopause happens, the chances of various other health-related issues increase. It can be hard to distinguish the complications of menopause and those related to aging.

Some complications or health changes you may experience around this time include:

vulvovaginal atrophy
dyspareunia, or painful intercourse
osteoporosis, or weaker bones with reduced mass and strength
mood or sudden emotional changes
urinary incontinence
heart or blood vessel disease
weight gain and change in body composition

Why does menopause occur?
Menopause is a natural process that results from changing levels of estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones as you age.

These changes are linked to a loss of active ovarian follicles. These structures produce and release eggs from the ovary wall and allow menstruation and fertility.

In some cases, menopause occurs early from surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, a pelvic injury, or other factors affecting the reproductive organs. This is called induced menopause.

Anyone assigned female at birth will likely experience menopause at some time. Gender transition surgery or hormone treatment may bring on menopause during or after treatment. Changes in the levels of certain hormones can induce symptoms of menopause regardless of a person’s gender or sex assigned at birth.

How is menopause diagnosed?
Most people know they are approaching or starting menopause when they begin having symptoms such as hot flashes or when they have not had a period for 12 months.

Not everyone needs to seek medical advice during menopause. If you do, however, a doctor may use a blood test to confirm if menopause is likely. These tests can include the following:

The PicoAMH Elisa diagnostic test can help determine whether menopause has begun.
Other blood tests can measure levels of FSH and estradiol, a form of estrogen. Blood levels that are consistently 30 mIU/mL or higher, combined with a lack of menstruation for 1 year, can usually confirm menopause.
Saliva tests and over-the-counter (OTC) urine tests are also available, but they can be expensive and are not always reliable.Depending on your symptoms and health history, a doctor may also order additional blood tests to help rule out other underlying conditions that may causing your symptoms. These tests can include:

thyroid function tests
blood lipid profile
liver function tests
kidney function tests
testosterone, progesterone, prolactin, estradiol, and chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) tests
It’s worth seeking medical help if menopause symptoms are affecting your daily life, you have other symptoms not related to menopause, or you’re experiencing menopause symptoms and are younger than age 45 years.

Treatments
Treatment for menopause symptoms include:

hormonal treatments to help manage hot flashes and other symptoms
lubricants for vaginal dryness
supplements and medications to help prevent osteoporosis
If you experience discomfort as menopause approaches, talk with a doctor. They can guide you through the process and provide treatments that help manage your symptoms.

Home remedies and lifestyle strategies

Some lifestyle strategies and home or alternative treatments can also help manage some menopause symptoms.

Keep cool and stay comfortable
Dress in loose, layered clothing that you can remove or put on easily to help manage hot flashes.
Keep your bedroom cool and avoid heavy blankets to reduce night sweats.
Carry a portable fan to help cool you down when you feel flushed.
Exercise

Current guidelines  recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise and two sessions of resistance training per week.

Exercise can help strengthen your body, boost overall well-being, and manage weight.

Communicate your needs and get support
Mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, sadness, and isolation, can occur during menopause.

You can try talking with family or friends, joining a local support group, or seeking counseling to help you manage the changes that are occurring.

Dietary choices
A 2023 research review suggests dietary choices during menopause can help manage depression, weight, skin changes, and even vasomotor symptoms.

Getting a variety of essential nutrients through a varied, balanced diet can boost your overall well-being during menopause.

Supplements
Herbs and supplements may help manage some effects of menopause. For instance, calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Ask a doctor for advice on supplements for your individual needs. A doctor can also make sure a supplement will not interact with any medications you may be taking.

Manage stress
Techniques for managing stress include relaxation and breathing exercises, such as:

yoga
box breathing
meditation
How can menopause affect your mental health?

Take care of your skin
Apply moisturizers daily to reduce skin dryness. Try to avoid excessive sun exposure and harsh cosmetics and cleansing products, too. They may dry out your skin.

How does your skin change during menopause and what can you do about it?

Manage sleeping issues
Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and well-being.

Talk with your doctor if you regularly have trouble sleeping. They can help you manage it and get a better night’s rest.

Avoid smoking and limit alcohol use
If you smoke, it might be a good time to quit smoking and take measures to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke to protect your overall health.

A high alcohol intake may make you feel worse as well. Limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day  can help prevent a range of health issues.

Can you drink alcohol during menopause?

Other remedies
Some people use alternative remedies to increase estrogen levels, but there’s not enough evidence to prove they are safe or effective.

These alternative remedies include:

soy isoflavones
vitamins, such as vitamin E
melatonin
flaxseed

Some people use black cohosh to improve symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. However, there is little evidence to support these claims. More research is needed.

Some research suggests omega-3 fatty acids may help improve night sweats but not hot flashes or other symptoms.

 

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