There Is Usually More Than A Hormonal Shift
Often there is an accompanying emotional shift. As Christiane Northrup, M.D. points out, it is characteristic of women to focus much of their energy during the childbearing years on caring for others. For, as they move toward menopause, the focus commonly turns inwards to caring for themselves. Women often re-evaluate their lives and relationships, looking for the understanding, support, and encouragement they feel they’ve been giving others for so many years. So, please take care of yourself, even consider consulting a therapist if need be, and don’t be afraid to express your feelings to others.
Low Estrogen Health Risks
Osteoporosis is when the bones become weak and brittle due to a lack of calcium. Estrogen preserves bone health by preventing calcium loss. When estrogen levels decline because of hormonal changes, it may increase the risk for fractures in the spine, hips, legs, and arms.
Women who drink a lot of alcohol, smoke, and do not exercise are at an increased risk of osteoporosis. Thin and petite women and those with a family history of osteoporosis also have a higher risk of developing this condition.
Estrogen seems to play a role in protecting the body from heart disease because it may elevate good cholesterol levels in the blood. A sharp increase in heart disease risk occurs with menopause.
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The Vulva Looks Different
Menopause triggers changes to more than just the vagina it can also alter the look of the vulva. We see an actual thinning and flattening out of the labia minora, says Streicher. Over time, some women completely lose their labia minora.
Heres why thats important to know: Its not always enough to treat the inside of your vagina outside problems can make penetration impossible, she says. At your appointment, a doctor should evaluate both areas.
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What Are The Stages Of Menopause
- Perimenopause typically occurs 3-5 years prior to the start of menopause. This stage occurs when your estrogen levels begin to drop and your body begins the transition towards menopause. You can still get pregnant during perimenopause.
- Menopause is confirmed to have started after youve missed your period for 12 consecutive months. Though every woman is unique and will experience this transition differently, most women enter menopause when they are 51 or 52.
- Postmenopause includes the time after menopause. Estrogen levels continue to decline during this stage, which can cause some menopausal symptoms to linger.
Menopause Symptoms At Age 40
For the vast majority of women, menopause symptoms dont start this early. If menopause happens before age 40, its called premature menopause. If it happens between age 40 and age 45, its known as early menopause. Fewer than 10 percent of women experience premature or early menopause.
But if youre in your early 40s and are regularly experiencing symptoms such as changes to your periods timing or flow, hot flashes, mood changes or sleep problems, dont ignore them. Talk with a womens health specialist.
A specialist like an OB-GYN or certified nurse-midwife can work with you to determine whether your symptoms are related to menopause, or another reason such as hormonal disorders or other health conditions.
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Hot And Yep Cold Flashes Too
In her early 50s, Liza, 58, of New York City, started having hot flashes that woke her up at night, though she didnt really realize what they were. That soon changed when she began having them during the day.
They were full-blown drenchers, where the sweat would pour down my face, for 10 minutes. And theyd occur every half-hour or so, she says. She carried a fan with her on the subway so she could cool down after a particularly bad flash. She always had tissues to sop up the sweat, and she stopped using facial moisturizer because just putting it on made me sweat.
So, whats the deal with hot flashes? Deep inside your brain is the cone-shaped hypothalmus, which, among other things, controls body temperature and hormone production. When estrogen levels drop, the hypothalamus has a harder time keeping your core temperature stable. If the brain senses your body is getting hotter , the hypothalmus will trigger the blood vessels to dilate to get rid of the extra heat.
Those hellish hot flashes made Liza miserable, so she asked her gynecologist about hormone therapy . HT are pills or patches that pump female hormones back into your body. Not everyone is a good candidate for hormone therapy. Women who have a history of breast cancer or blood clots are considered at higher risk for strokes or breast cancer because estrogen plays a role in both. But for most women, these risks are minimized if youre put on a low dose and you start before age 60 .
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Menopause Mystery: Why Do Female Killer Whales Experience The Change Of Life
For people who cannot take estrogen therapy, or choose not to, Stuenkel says some drugs in the antidepressant family, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, can help with hot flashes. Stuenkel says, “While they’re not perfect, they can take the edge off and help enough so that women can get a better night’s sleep.”
There are an abundance of nonhormonal, nondrug treatment options for managing symptoms, some of which have significantly more evidence backing them than others. In 2015, a North American Menopause Society panel found that cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis were significantly effective in treating hot flashes. The same panel also found that popular herbal remedies are “unlikely to help,” although some NPR listeners who wrote in said they got relief from some of those treatments.
For depressive and anxiety symptoms, women may want to seek out professional counseling or a psychiatrist.
When do I need to see a doctor?
You might not need to at all. Some people sail right through menopause with little trouble. But if you are experiencing symptoms that are interfering with your life, it’s worth making an appointment. Some of these symptoms could indicate other problems that need treatment, such as fibroids or even cancer.
Ways to cope with symptoms
For people approaching this stage of life or who are already going through it, here are four steps for making this transition more manageable.
1. Get educated
2. Monitor your health
3. Practice smart self-care
4. Cultivate community
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Emotional Impact Of Early Or Premature Menopause
Premature menopause can be emotionally devastating. Some of the common issues women may face include:
- grief at the prospect of not having children
- fear of ‘growing old before their time’
- concern that their partner wont find them sexually attractive anymore
- self-esteem problems.
Psychological counselling and support groups may help women come to terms with their experience of early or premature menopause.
Treatment For Early Or Premature Menopause
There is no treatment available to make the ovaries start working again.
Rarely, the ovaries may spontaneously start working again, for reasons unknown. According to some studies, about one in 10 women who are diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency get pregnant, for reasons that are not yet clear.
Women with early menopause have a long period of postmenopausal life, which means they are at increased risk of health problems such as early onset of osteoporosis and heart disease. For this reason, it is recommended that they take some form of hormone therapy until they reach the typical age of menopause . This may be the combined oestrogen and progestogen oral contraceptive pill, or menopausal hormone therapy .
Either option treats menopausal symptoms and reduces the risk of early onset of osteoporosis and heart disease.
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What Happens After Menopause Top Concerns
There are a lot of misconceptions about what happens after menopause and what life will be like for women. Women fear menopause, and all the years after, because they feel as though their best years are behind them. Where does this notion come from? Often, its the cultural messages women are given. Just look at TV shows and movies how are older women portrayed? The show The Golden Girls helped push aside the notion that life ends after menopause, but that show was an exception, not the rule. Perceptions are shifting, but not quickly enough! Lets dispel some of these old ideas, then Ill tell you all the things to celebrate about life after menopause.
Its all downhill from here
Ill never feel good again
There are many uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause, and some women feel like theyll never get past them. Indeed, for some women these symptoms can linger for much longer than necessary. For generations, women didnt talk about menopause in the autobiographies of many famous women that Ive read, its not ever mentioned. No wonder women are concerned that the hot flashes, headaches and fatigue will never end. But menopause is not a disease, regardless of how many medical professionals still treat it as such. These symptoms are a message the body is sending and when you stop and pay attention to that communication, there is so much that can be done about it!
My sex life is over
These feelings of despair will never fade
Perimenopause: How To Spot The First Signs Of Menopause
3 Minute Read
Medically Reviewed by UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
Menopause doesnt happen overnight and the symptoms vary from person to person. Many women will ask: How will I know when I start menopause?
Technically, youre in menopause if you havent had a period for 12 straight months. Perimenopause is the time when your body begins to make the transition towards menopause.
Women start perimenopause at different ages. Its a normal phase of life that usually occurs anywhere from a womans early forties to mid-fifties.
The symptoms of menopause can be confusing. Some women experience every symptom, others barely any. And while some symptoms may occur for months, others can last for years. Here are some of the most common early signs of menopause.
If youre still asking yourself, How will I know when I start menopause? visit the Midlife Health Center at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital for more information.
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Menopause: Changes And Challenges
Alta Bates Summit Medical CenterBerkeley, California
US Pharm. 2018 43:13-16.
Menopause is the cessation of menstruation in a woman, typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55 years. Smokers and women with chronic diseases may experience earlier menopause.1 This is a natural biological process, not a disease.
Menopause and perimenopausethe period of transition beginning 2 to 8 years before and lasting up to 1 year after a womans final menstrual periodoccur because as women get older, the ovaries begin to shut down.1 Eventually, ovaries stop producing estrogen and other hormones. Since the body has depended on these hormones for years, when hormone levels decrease, the changes are noticeable and may result in emotional reactions and bodily changes.2 These may include physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, decreased energy levels, and sleep disruption, as well as mood-related symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Over time, these symptoms gradually disappear.1 Although menopause ends fertility, women can stay healthy, vital, and sexual. This article will briefly review the physiology and types of menopause, signs and symptoms, and symptomatic treatment.
How Long Does Menopause Last
Menopause is a single point in time and not a process it is the time point in at which a woman’s last period ends. Of course, a woman will not know when that time point has occurred until she has been 12 consecutive months without a period. The symptoms of menopause, on the other hand, may begin years before the actual menopause occurs and may persist for some years afterward as well.
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Confirming That The Menopause Has Taken Place
Its not always easy to confirm that the menopause has actually happened. Of course, irregular periods and the occasional hot flush are a sign that changes are taking place, but identifying the time of the actual menopause is not so simple, especially if you are taking the Pill or have started Hormone Replacement Therapy for the relief of peri-menopausal symptoms.
The question may seem irrelevant, but it is helpful to know the date of your last period, not only so that you can respond to symptoms in the most appropriate way, but also for contraceptive purposes. A truly menopausal woman will be infertile and will have no need of contraception. However, most doctors advise menopausal women under 50 to continue with their contraception for two years after their last period and for one year if they are over 50.
Most doctors will evaluate a womans menopausal status according to her symptoms , pattern of periods, and medical record. It is possible to take a blood test to measure levels of a reproductive hormone known as FSH. However, while elevated FSH levels may be a sign of the menopause, the test is not always accurate and results cant be guaranteed. Measurement of FSH is not required to diagnose perimenopause or menopause in women aged over 45 years.
This is also the case in those rare instances of premature ovarian Insufficiency, when the hormonal system fails at an early age and the ovaries lose their normal function.
Results Will Help Bipoc Women Access Better Healthcare
These findings are important, says Dr. Santoro. I have practiced medicine in environments where the menopausal experience of Black women was simply not appreciated. Not knowing that a Black woman is likely to have longer and worse menopausal symptoms does her a disservice, because the clinician might tend to minimize the impact of her symptoms and might be less likely to offer her hormone therapy or other treatments. Having a better idea of how long symptoms will last is also helpful, and knowing more about differences in the timing of menopause may influence the decisions to do testing such a bone density screening and other aspects of menopause care.
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What Is Hormone Therapy
During menopause, your body goes through major hormonal changes, decreasing the amount of hormones it makes particularly estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries. When your ovaries no longer make enough estrogen and progesterone, hormone therapy can be used as a supplement. Hormone therapy boosts your hormone levels and can help relieve some symptoms of menopause. Its also used as a preventative measure for osteoporosis.
There are two main types of hormone therapy:
- Estrogen therapy : In this treatment, estrogen is taken alone. Its typically prescribed in a low dose and can be taken as a pill or patch. ET can also be given to you as a cream, vaginal ring, gel or spray. This type of treatment is used after a hysterectomy. Estrogen alone cant be used if a woman still has a uterus.
- Estrogen Progesterone/Progestin Hormone Therapy : This treatment is also called combination therapy because it uses doses of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is available in its natural form, or also as a progestin . This type of hormone therapy is used if you still have your uterus.
Hormone therapy can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause, including:
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness.
What Are The Symptoms Of Perimenopause
During perimenopause, you can experience a variety of symptoms. The reason: Your ovaries have been making estrogen since your first period. During perimenopause, the estrogen production decreases substantially. Your body has to adjust to functioning with less of the hormone, putting you into estrogen withdrawals. The type and intensity of symptoms vary greatly among women some just feel a little off or don’t notice anything at all.
Others can experience perimenopausal symptoms including:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling irritable, anxious or depressed
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
About 80 percent of women will experience some form of a hot flash during perimenopause or menopause. Hot flashes happen when your brain has trouble regulating your internal temperature, which is a common response to having less estrogen. The shift in temperature may not be noticeable. Or, it may feel like someone cranked up the thermostat on your core body temperature. You suddenly feel uncomfortably hot and sweaty, or you may wake up drenched in sweat .
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What Symptoms Are Caused By The Reduced Levels Of Estrogen In My Body
About 75 percent of women experience hot flashes during menopause, making them the most common symptom experienced by menopausal women. Hot flashes can occur during the day or at night. Some women may also experience muscle and joint pain, known as arthralgia, or mood swings.
It may be difficult to determine whether these symptoms are caused by shifts in your hormones, life circumstances, or the aging process itself.
What Is Induced Menopause
“Induced”, “sudden” or “surgical” menopause happens when a woman goes through an immediate and premature menopause. This occurs when her ovaries no longer produce the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
This may be caused by:
- surgery to remove your ovaries
- radiation treatment or
- ovarian malfunction.
Women going through induced menopause may have more severe menopausal symptoms, and are usually treated with hormone therapy.
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Arthritis Vs Arthralgia: Whats The Difference
Do you have arthritis, or do you have arthralgia? Many medical organizations use either term to mean any type of joint pain. Mayo Clinic, for example, states that joint pain refers to arthritis or arthralgia, which is inflammation and pain from within the joint itself.
However, other organizations make a distinction between the two conditions. Read on to learn more about their characteristics.