Menopause or climacteric presently affects more than fifty million women in America. It is a normal biological process in the cycle of a female’s life and it is bound to happen to every woman at the average age of 50 usually.
Menopause is the point in a woman’s life where she is unable to bear a child anymore and her periods stops completely. It signifies the end of fertility and menstruation for a woman. It must be understood that the menopause or what is also called the change of life, is a natural progression in a woman’s life. It is simply a biological phase experienced by women, when they reached a certain age in their life, and is described as the permanent cessation of the main functions of the female ovaries. These functions include the maturing and release of the ovum and the release of hormones that cause the formation of the uterine lining and its subsequent shedding (which is more commonly known as the menses).
Because the main functions of the ovaries stop, the most common manifestation of menopause is the cessation of menstruation. It usually occurs at midlife, during the late 40’s or early 50’s. This also signals the end of a woman’s fertile phase. This particular period may also bring many emotions that you are extremely unfamiliar with.
What Age Does Menopause Start
Since menopause is characterized by the cessation of menstruation, it is usually confirmed when a woman does not have her monthly period for over a year. It is the time when she has in fact entered the menopausal stage. In USA menopause usually occurs in women aged 48 – 52. Although in some cases it may occur as early as 45 years of age.
For most women, menopause is experienced during their late forties or early fifties and this is the age range when the menopause should begin. It is normal though for menopause to occur anytime between the ages of 40 and 60. The most commonly experienced symptoms reported by women undergoing menopause are hot flashes (in 70% to 85% of all cases) and vaginal dryness (45%).
Types of Menopause
Aside from the “regular” menopause that is an inevitable part of the aging process in women, there are two other types of menopause depending on how or at what age it occurs. They are Early or Premature Menopause, and Surgical Menopause. Let us briefly examine each one and find out what are the possible effects and symptoms experienced by women undergoing these menopause types.
Early or Premature Menopause is the term used when it is experienced by women under the age of 40. It can be brought about by several factors including medical treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy, by the instability of the hormonal signaling system, or by disease. The symptoms of premature menopause are similar to those experienced during normal menopause.
However, women who go through premature menopause, in spite of the cause, have increased health risks, including higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures, increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), and increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Surgical Menopause occurs in women who have had their ovaries removed (bilateral oophorectomy) before reaching menopause for medical reasons. This surgery causes a sharp change in estrogen levels, instead of the gradual changes of natural menopause. Thus, they usually experience more abrupt and more severe hot flashes as a result of this surgically induced menopause.
Common Menopause Symptoms
Vast majority of women acknowledge that hot flushes are usually indicators associated with the menopause, even if they are unclear what one of these actually feels like. However what about other unpleasant signs or symptoms like migraine headaches, or swift changes in moods that can make you actually weep uncontrollably should you see a newborn baby? In these instances are you certain that you’re experiencing the symptoms of menopause. The main point regarding the menopause would be to realize that you’re definitely not by yourself.
During the menopause a woman will encounter various menopausal signs and symptoms, both physical and emotional. Some of these are hot flashes and night sweats. Other symptoms include depression and mood swings. The symptoms for some will be minor, but for many others the problems encountered will be severe. On a positive note, some have stated that it is a new start for a woman in this period in her lifetime. When the last menstrual period happens, the menopause should happen a year after this. As stated, the process is natural and not an illness, as some would portray it.
What brings about the physical changes? These changes are caused by the changes in their hormones. It should be remembered that the menopausal period is triggered by a woman’s age. Their childbearing years have come to an end BUT that will not make you less feminine or any less of a woman. On the other hand you will not have to worry about your periods and the chance of getting pregnant. In other words you still have the remainder of your life to enjoy.
In addition, a woman also experiences changes in hormonal activity which would normally start 2 to 8 years prior to the menopausal stage. This phase is known as perimenopause, during which hormonal fluctuations could already bring about menstrual irregularities, and symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, increased urinary tract problems, loss of libido, weight gain, and skin dryness.
There is also a lesser known symptom that causes considerable discomfort for menopausal women called vulvar and vaginal atrophy, wherein the vaginal walls become thinner and less lubricated due to the decrease in estrogen levels.
If you are encountering any of the above mentioned symptoms of the menopause, then it’s advisable to have a check up with your doctor for relevant advice as it will be able to clear up any worries or questions on what is the menopause.
Perimenopause – The Early Stage of Menopause
It’s tempting (for some may be) to think that a woman who was previously capable of having children will suddenly jump straight to menopause. That, however, is not the case. A transition phase before actual menopause exists, and this phase is known as perimenopause.
The term, perimenopause, refers to the years prior to and after the lady’s final menstrual period. A more technical definition refers to the period of time when her follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels increase and menses become irregular, all the way up to a year after her last menstrual bleeding.
Are There Any Perimenopause Symptoms?
The interesting thing about this phase is that its length of time can range from two to eight years. It’s not uncommon for women to mistake its symptoms as “indicators of everyday stress” and what not. In reality, their bodies are winding their reproductive systems down, and the process isn’t quite as simple as it appears to be.
The factors responsible for this preparatory phase are the same ones that drive the female reproductive system in the first place: progesterone and estrogen. They influence — and are influenced by — the woman’s egg supply.
Age tends to affect the quantity and quality of her eggs, which, in turn, affects the constancy of her ovulation. These result in irregular periods and fluctuations in hormone production, which manifest as perimenopause symptoms.
This is where the confusion often sets in, as the perimenopause symptoms may also be caused by other, extraneous sources. Typically, indicators include heavy menstrual bleeding, depression, anxiety, breast soreness, hot flashes, headaches, etc.
Is Perimenopause Treatable?
The good news is that the symptoms are treatable, especially under the supervision of a good doctor. The physician may prescribe a more natural form of treatment such as herbal supplements and adjusting the patient’s diet or exercise program.
Hormone replacement therapy is also an option for perimenopause symptoms, but due to the risks involved, pushing through with it will ultimately depend on the doctor’s evaluation of the needs and status of the patient.
As with any trial, this preparatory phase eventually passes. The time will come when the hormone levels will reach their lowest levels and menstrual bleeding will stop entirely.
With a little patience and a lot of support (medical and otherwise), a woman will be able to weather the storm of perimenopause symptoms.
Male Menopause or Andropause – No Gender Discrimination
Menopause is a phase that is commonly associated with women, yet men have their own version of the male menopause symptoms, which is also known as the andropause. The condition is often found in men between the ages of 40 and 60, and it is linked to marked decrease in androgen production—most notably testosterone.
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this one — the medical community has yet to determine whether the actual male menopause symptoms exist. In fact it seems that it is more about the term “male menopause” rather than it actually exists or not. However there is a marked difference between the male and female variants: hormone production in female menopause completely grinds to a halt; male bodies never really run out of the raw materials for testosterone. Thus, they can keep producing well into their later years.
Nevertheless, the male menopause is still a concern for older men due to the realities involved. Doctors know this, and they can diagnose it through blood tests, physical exams and conversations with the patient.
What Are The Male Menopause Symptoms
Just as female menopause is marked by such symptoms such as vaginal dryness and a total cessation of bleeding, male menopause symptoms also exist, albeit in different form. Men going through this phase report a significant decrease in energy levels and sex drive. Hair loss and psychological problems may also appear, as may hot flashes and swollen breasts.
Other common male menopause symptoms include a lower red blood cell count, weight gain (most notably around the mid section), loss of muscle and bone mass, loss of sleep and even infertility. Indecisiveness, confusion and lower self-confidence may also plague older men.
The good news is that these can be dealt with. Testosterone replacement therapy may help alleviate some of them, but like its female counterpart, it also carries potential risks and side effects with it.
Doctors may recommend changes in patients’ diets and exercise programs. Physicians can also prescribe antidepressants to deal with negative mood swings. Bioidentical creams, melatonin supplements and injections serves as additional options.
Regardless of what patients end up doing about their male menopause (andropause) symptoms, the key is to consult with a trusted physician and maintain regular communication with the doctor. Few things are as reassuring as the knowledge that someone understands what you are going through and has the expertise to back you up.
Female Menopause Relieve Treatments
Since new health studies on menopause are publishing on everyday basis due to latest advancement in technology and medicine, consequently, many improved treatments for menopause to cope with this specific condition are now being available. When we talk about menopause treatments, it doesn’t meant that you can stop the menopuase. It means how you can make the menopuase related symptoms more manageable and painless. Main treatment for menopuase is Hormone Replacement Therapy which can eases many of the major menopause symptoms.
There are also some natural treatments for menopause which are worth considering due to the fact that Hormone Replacement Therapy has some serious side effects.
You can manage far better with the onset of the menopause through making sure you can get some daily exercise. It could be as simple as going for a walks but make it regular. Additionally drink lots of water along with a healthy diet plan, which incorporates vegetables and fruit.
If you want to go through menopause as easy as possible, without having to risk your health on hormone replacement therapy, then you might want to consider taking the natural route instead. The good news is, as there is a wide array of different formulations you can choose from, you can easily find one that will work for your specific concerns and needs. More often, these treatments are focused on modifying diet habits and life style.
Although you’ll find countless online reviews for hundreds of menopuase products, make sure to consult your doctor first before trying out any of these treatments. There are some ingredients that can cause adverse effects on people with certain conditions so do your research first so that you’ll be able to avoid any unnecessary discomfort when you decided to get one of these treatments for menopause.
Hormone Replacement Therapy – The Controversial Treatment
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an option available to women suffering from symptoms of perimenopause. In a nutshell, this form of treatment involves boosting the levels of progesterone and estrogen in the woman’s body through artificial means. However it has some side effects including breast cancer.
The underlying principle is that low hormone levels cause the woman’s discomfort. Therefore, raising their amounts should alleviate her symptoms.
Potential hormone replacement therapy side effects do exist, and any woman considering this form of treatment needs to be aware of them. In a study conducted way back in the early 1990s, researchers from the Women’s Health Initiative discovered that women who received either estrogen-only treatment or hormone combination treatment had a greater risk of suffering from serious health issues.
Side Effects Hormone Replacement Therapy
Some of these hormone replacement therapy side effects include: gallbladder disease, blood clots, heart attacks, stroke and various forms of cancer (breast, endometrial, ovarian). There are other potential side effects as well. Patients have reported incidents of negative mood swings, migraines, vaginal bleeding, nausea and water retention, among others.
While not a malady per se, HRT has also been known to increase breast density, which significantly decreases the effectiveness of mammograms with respect to breast cancer detection.
Do to the risky nature of hormone replacement therapy, doctors may advise women with certain conditions not to take the treatment. Anyone with a family history of cancer is obviously out of the question. Women with unexplained vaginal bleeding, liver problems or heart conditions are also at serious risk, and will likely get a “nay” from their physician.
What Are The Alternatives of Hormone Replacement Therapy
As an interesting side note, your doctor may offer Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) as an alternative. As the name suggests, bioidentical hormones gleaned from soy and herbs are used in place of synthetic ones. There are reportedly fewer hormone replacement therapy side effects associated with BHRT than with regular HRT, yet the safety of the former treatment has yet to be clinically proven.
The moral lesson is this: keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctor. Knowing that your physician is with you every step of the way will help ease your burden and likely spare you from consequences you may regret later. If you’re going to take the risk, make sure it’s a calculated and an informed risk.
The positive point that a female could and will need to take from these changes is they can end up being both beautiful on a physical and emotional level. For many it may bring too much anxiety duo to extreme mood swings, relationships likewise changing, some very significantly. However for others it can be for the better.
The entire experience will most definitely help to make us re-evaluate our life to date as well as what we want to do with the rest of it. It also brings to head lots of key difficulties which we’ve been avoiding. In each and every woman’s lifetime, the symptoms of menopause is a natural event.
For other people this particular time period brings brand new vigor and to catch up on incomplete business. It can gives us the ability to be manage better, be more calm and can enjoy situations and also life in a much productive way.
Make sure to maintain a sense of optimism as you open this new phase in your life.
References & Citations: