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Monday, December 12, 2011

Menopausal Syndrome Made Easy

MENOPAUSE is the absence of menstrual period for 12 months. The menopausal transition starts with varying menstrual cycle length and ends with the final menstrual period.
Perimenopause means "around the time of menopause." 
Postmenopause is the entire period of time that comes after the last menstrual period.

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when the function of the ovaries ceases. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones. The hormones also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Estrogens also protect the bone. Therefore, a woman can develop osteoporosis later in life when her ovaries do not produce adequate estrogen.

The average age of menopause is 51 years old. But there is no way to predict when an individual woman will enter menopause. The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is also not related to the age of menopause onset.
Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but menopause may occur as earlier as the 30s or 40s, or may not occur until a woman reaches her 60s. As a rough "rule of thumb," women tend to undergo menopause at an age similar to that of their mother's.

Perimenopause, often accompanies by irregularities in the menstrual cycle along with the typical symptoms of early menopause, can begin up to 10 years prior to the last menstrual period.

It is important to remember that each woman's experience is highly individual. Some women may experience few or no symptoms of menopause, while others experience multiple physical and psychological symptoms.

The extent and severity of symptoms varies significantly among women.

Symptoms of Menopause

1. Irregular vaginal bleeding. 
Some women have minimal problems with abnormal bleeding during perimenopause, whereas, others have unpredictable, excessive bleeding. Menstrual periods may occur more frequently or they may get farther and farther apart before stopping.

There is no "normal" pattern of bleeding during the perimenopause, and patterns vary from women to woman. It is common for women in perimenopause to get a period after going for several months without one.

There is also no set length of time it takes for a woman to complete the menopausal transition. The menstrual abnormalities that begin in the perimenopause are also associated with a decrease in fertility, since ovulation has become irregular.

However, women who are in perimenopause may still become pregnant until they have reached true menopause (the absence of periods for one year).

2. Hot flashes and night sweats. 
A hot flash is a feeling of warmth that spreads over the body and is often most pronounced in the head and chest. It is sometimes associated with flushing and is sometimes followed by perspiration.

Hot flashes usually last from 30 seconds to several minutes, and are likely due to a combination of hormonal and biochemical fluctuations brought on by declining estrogen levels. There is currently no method to predict when hot flashes will begin and how long they will last.

Hot flashes occur in up to 40% of regularly menstruating women in their forties, so they may begin before the menstrual irregularities characteristic of menopause even begin. About 80% of women will be finished having hot flashes after five years. Sometimes, in about 10% of women, hot flashes can last as long as 10 years.

Sometimes, hot flashes accompanied by night sweats (episodes of drenching sweats at nighttime). This may lead to awakening and difficulty falling asleep again, resulting in unrefreshing sleep, and daytime tiredness.

3. Vaginal symptoms. 
These occur as a result of the lining tissues of the bagina becoming thinner, drier, and less elastic as estrogen levels fall. Symptoms may include vaginal dryness, itching, or irritation, and/or pain with sexual intercourse (dyspareunia). The vaginal changes also lead to an increased risk of vaginal infections.

4. Urinary symptoms. 
The lining of the urethra (the transport tube leading from the bladder to discharge urine outside the body) also undergoes changes similar to the tissues of the vagina, and becomes dryer, thinner, and less elastic with declining estrogen levels. This can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infection, feeling the need to urinate more frequently, or leakage of urine (urinary incontinence). The incontinence can result from a strong, sudden urge to urinate or may occur during straining when coughing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects.

5. Emotional and cognitive symptoms. 
Women in perimenopause often report a variety of cognitive (thinking) and/or emotional symptoms, including fatigue, memory problems, irritability, and rapid changes in mood. The night sweats that may occur during perimenopause can also contribute to feelings of tiredness and fatigue, which can have an effect on mood and cognitive performance.

6. Other physical changes. 
Many women report some degree of weight gain along with menopause. The distribution of body fat may change, with body fat being deposited more in the waist and abdominal area than in the hips and thighs. Changes in skin texture, including wrinkles, may develop along with worsening of adult acne in those affected by this condition. Since the body continues to produce small levels of the male hormone testosterone, some women may experience some hair growth on the chin, upper lip, chest, or abdomen.

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