Know the basics
What is menopause?
Menopause is defined as the 12 months after your last menstrual period. It is the time when you don’t have menstrual periods anymore. Menopause marks the end of reproductive period, which means that you can’t give birth, but you still remain healthy, vital and sexually capable. It is a natural process, so you don’t need to worry too much about that.
How common is menopause?
Every woman have to face menopause once in their life because it is a universal and irreversible natural biological process relating to women reproductive track. The age of menopause varies from one to others. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The common signs and symptoms of menopause are:
- Hot flashes or flushes (most common);
- Irregular periods;
- Night sweats;
- Insomnia or other sleep problems;
- Mood changes;
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism;
- Thinning hair and dry skin;
- Depression, anxiety and headaches;
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Schedule regular visits with your doctor starting at peri-menopause to after menopause;
- You need preventive health care to be ready for menopause.
- Seek instant medical advice of you experience severe complication, such as bleeding from vagina after menopause.
Know the causes
What causes menopause?
One of the causes is natural decline of reproductive hormones. When you get older, particularly at your late 30s, your ovaries start making less estrogen and progesterone which regulate menstruation. As the result, your fertility declines. If you are around 40s, your menstrual periods may become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, and more or less frequent until you get age 51, you don’t have periods any more.
Regular hysterectomy contributes to your condition because your uterus is removed. Your ovaries still remain, so it does not lead to menopause. Although you no longer have periods due to not having uterus, your ovaries still release eggs and produce estrogen and progesterone. However, total hysterectomy removes both uterus and ovaries and does cause menopause without transitional phase.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also cause your menopause. You can expect to experience menopause, some symptoms such as hot flashes during or shortly after the course of treatment.
The other cause is primary ovarian insufficiency. It is reported that the amount of women go through menopause before age 40, also known as premature menopause, is 1 percent. If your ovaries can’t produce normal levels of reproductive hormones which stems from genetic factors or autoimmune disease, you can have menopause.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for menopause?
Menopause is unavoidable but following factors can lower the age of physiologic menopause:
- It is reported that women who smoke is at risk of having menopause in one to two years earlier in compare with women who don’t smoke;
- Family history. Women with a family history of early menopause may experience early menopause themselves. It can be related to a genetic condition known as fragile X carrier.
- Cancer treatment. Treatment for cancer with chemotherapy or radiation therapy can bring you some side effects, including early menopause;
- Hysterectomy and oophorectomy. A hysterectomy removes your uterus but keeps your ovaries, so it usually doesn’t cause menopause but can increase the chance of having menopause earlier than average age. In case one ovary is removed during surgery, like oophorectomy, the remaining ovary might stop working sooner than expected.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is menopause diagnosed?
Usually the doctor can give some initial diagnose ideas about your menopause base on your signs and symptoms. If you have concerns about irregular periods or hot flashes, talk with your doctor. In some cases, further evaluations are necessary.
Blood tests can be required to check your level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). FSH levels increase and estradiol levels decrease as menopause occurs. In addition, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) related to TSH level can make you have the same symptoms as those of menopause.
How is menopause treated?
You don’t need any medical treatment to treat your menopause. In fact, treatments that focus on relieving your signs and symptoms and preventing or managing chronic conditions that may occur with aging are what you need to treat the disease.
Hormone therapy is one of relieving treatments. It is supposed to be the most effective treatment option for relieving menopausal hot flashes. Depending on your personal and family medical history, your doctor may recommend estrogen in the lowest dose needed to provide symptom relief for you.
Vaginal estrogen is chosen to help relieve vaginal dryness. Direct administered path way includes vaginal cream, tablet or ring.
Low-dose antidepressants might be helpful to decrease menopausal hot flashes. If your health is not good enough to take estrogen, a low-dose antidepressant for management of hot flashes may be an alternative.
The doctor also can prescribe you medications to prevent or treat osteoporosis. Depending on your needs and wants, your doctor can decide if you can apply this method.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage menopause?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with menopause:
- Cool down the hot flashes. You should dress in layers, have a cold glass of water or go somewhere cooler. Try to pinpoint what triggers your hot flashes;
- Get enough sleep;
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, paced breathing, guided imagery, massage and progressive muscle relaxation;
- Strengthen your pelvic floor with Kegel exercises;
- Have a balanced diet. You need to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with limiting saturated fats, oils and sugars;
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity or exercise on most days cans help you prevent heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and other conditions associated with aging.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Menopause. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/definition/con-20019726. Accessed July 10, 2016.
Menopause. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/264088-overview#a2. Accessed July 17, 2016.