Menopause is a term referring to the period during which a woman’s ovaries begin to produce less of the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. The production of eggs also reduces during this time. Menstrual periods become progressively irregular to the point where they stop altogether. The reduced female hormone production is responsible for this period cessation. Menopause can be confirmed after a woman has not experienced periods for 12 months.
Menopause indicates the point where a woman is no longer fertile and causes physical and psychological effects in many women. This period mostly occurs in women between ages of 45 and 55 years. Herein is an overview what you need to know about menopause including causes, menopause symptoms, and some of the available treatment options.
WHEN DOES MENOPAUSE BEGIN?
There is a period leading up to menopause. This term is the perimenopause or the climacteric phase. Perimenopause starts on average in women aged 45 years. However, this stage can begin at any time between the ages of 39 and 51. It may last an average of five years. Sometimes, women will experience this at a much younger age.
THE CAUSES OF MENOPAUSE
At birth, the ovaries harbor a lifetime supply of eggs located in tiny follicles. During puberty, hormones from the pituitary gland in the brain stimulate the release of eggs every month (ovulation). Ovulation prompts the ovaries to release progesterone and estrogen, which stimulate the thickening of the uterus lining (endometrium) in preparation for implantation of the fertilized egg.
A period occurs when fertilization fails to happen. This series of events is better known as the menstrual cycle. The number of follicles in a woman’s ovaries reduces as she ages. The ovaries also produce fewer hormones.
When the ovaries fail to produce sufficient hormones to stimulate the growth of the endometrium, menopause occurs. Eventually, the periods cease permanently. The time from when the symptoms initially appear stretching to when menopause occurs may be several years.
It is worth noting that the natural reduction in hormone production is not always the cause of menopause. It can also be brought on by the following situations:
- Hysterectomy – Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. When the surgical procedure involves only the removal of a woman’s uterus, she will not enter menopause. The cause of immediate menopause is a combination of total hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. The latter refers to the removal of the ovaries.
- Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy – If a woman undergoes these cancer therapies, she can experience the onset of menopause symptoms in the course of the treatment or months later.
- Primary Ovarian Insufficiency – Researchers are yet to understand the cause of this condition fully. The disease causes the ovaries to not produce normal levels of female reproductive hormones. It is often the causative agent for a small percentage of women who undergo menopause before the age of 40.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE
The symptoms of menopause usually begin to appear during perimenopause. They may be evident several years before a woman reaches menopause. There are a variety of standard signs and symptoms. However, not all women will experience all of them and probably not to the same degree. Some women go through perimenopause without exhibiting any symptoms.
- HOT FLUSHES
Hot flushes are essentially perceived increases in temperature, which can lead to sweating. About there quarters of women experience hot flushes during menopause. Changes in a woman’s thermo-neutral zone are the leading causes of hot flushes.
A woman’s thermo-neutral zone is the temperature range in which she feels most comfortable. Estrogen levels directly affect this range of temperature. A drop in hormone production can result in hot flushes and night sweats for many women. Without treatment, this symptom can persist for up to five years.
- MILD INCONTINENCE
During the perimenopause and beyond, women can experience reduced bladder control. Incontinence can lead to minor urine leakages (often when sneezing or laughing). Mild incontinence can also increase a woman’s susceptibility to urinary tract infections (UTIs) that recur.
- CHANGES IN APPEARANCE
A reduction in the production of estrogen leads to several physical symptoms. These symptoms include wrinkling, thinning hair, loss of breast fullness and retention of abdominal fat.
- SEXUAL CHANGES
Low levels of estrogen affect a woman’s reproductive system in other external ways. It can lead to vaginal dryness and reduced lubrication. In some cases, the symptoms can be severe enough to cause painful intercourse. This is also known as vaginal atrophy
A woman may also experience a significant reduction in the sensitivity of her sexual organs. Reduction of blood flow to the reproductive organs is the
principal cause of this phenomenon.
- IRREGULAR PERIODS
During the onset of menopause, many women will experience changes in their menstrual cycles. The menstrual cycles may become shorter, longer or completely uneven. There may also be differences in the flow, with more substantial or lighter flow.
- PSYCHOLOGICAL SIGNS
The hormonal changes that occur at the onset of menopause adversely affect the mental health of many women. As such, women may experience anxiety, loss of confidence, irritability, mood swings, reduced sexual interest, and difficulty concentrating. Some women will also suffer from reduced self-esteem and even depression. These effects are the result of the view that menopause is a sign of aging.
- SLEEPING PROBLEMS
A large percentage of women report disturbances in their sleeping patterns or quality during menopause. These can include difficulties falling asleep (insomnia), staying asleep and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when one stops breathing for a few seconds during sleep. The night sweats (due to hot flushes) also contribute to the sleeping problems
- OTHER SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Additional notable signs and symptoms of menopause include fatigue, palpitations, joint pain, unusual skin sensations, bone pain, forgetfulness and constant headaches.
TREATMENT OF MENOPAUSE
The treatment options for menopause focus on alleviating the symptoms. The treatment will depend on the type and severity of the symptoms.
Hormone therapy involves the replacement or supplementation of the female hormones produced by the ovaries previously. This option is recommendable for the disruptive symptoms of menopause that can be considered moderate to severe.
Hormone therapy is useful in the management of hot flushes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats. It may also reduce the risks of the conditions associated with menopause including osteoporosis and heart disease. SERMs, tablets, pills, vaginal preparations (pessaries and creams) and skin patches are the various forms of hormone administration.
Academy Laser Clinic offers the Mona Lisa Touch treatment for vaginal atrophy. This treatment has proven results and doesn’t require women to take hormones or other pharmaceutical drugs on a long term basis. Laser treatment is used to start natural regenerative processes within the vaginal wall’s tissue.
Lifestyle changes have been shown to reduce the severity of some of the symptoms of menopause significantly. They are also beneficial in regards to the possible complications of menopause. These changes in lifestyle include:
- Adopting a healthy diet
- Engaging in regular physical activity
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Cessation of smoking habits
- Pelvic floor strengthening exercises
- Getting regular physical check-ups
Women can gain control over menopause by learning more about it as well as actively engaging and working with their physician. The great news is that the symptoms of menopause are not permanent – contact Academy Laser Clinic to see how we can help you.