How Do I Know If I’m Beginning Menopause?
What is Menopause?
Menopause affects all women at a certain point in their lives. It is defined as the cessation of the menstrual period for at least one year. Once menopause sets in, complete cessation of menstrual activity will eventually occur. This process usually begins in the late 40s or early 50s.
Who Does Menopause Affect?
Menopause affects all women as they age. However, there is no set time to experience it. The average age of onset is 51, but it can begin as early as 45. When menstrual cycle changes take place much earlier than this, it may indicate an unrelated health problem that requires diagnosis.
The time of your menopause onset cannot be predicted based on the experiences of your mother, sister, or other relatives. Before menopause begins, perimenopause – a transitional state that prepares the body for menstrual cessation – produces noticeable symptoms for up to twelve months.
Symptoms of Menopause
There are several common menopause symptoms experienced by the majority of women. Such as:
About three-fourths of all menopausal women report hot flashes. They are, by far, the most common symptom of menopause. During a hot flash, there is a noticeable increase in body temperature that affects the top half of the body. You skin may become red or blotchy.
Muscle and Joint Pain
Also called arthralgia, this pain occurs in the muscles or joints without swelling. It is distinct from arthritis because inflammation is detectable in classic cases of arthritis, particularly in the joints. It’s vital to have a doctor evaluate your joint health to determine the source of discomfort.
Mood disturbances are common during menopause, particularly in the early stages. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone play an important role in emotional regulation, so changes in hormone levels can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and other intense emotions.
Many women will face some weight gain during menopause. It is especially important to look closely at diet and exercise habits in order to combat these changes. Slowing metabolism and reduced interest in physical activity also contribute to the possibility of weight gain.
Another classic symptom prevalent in the early phases of menopause is sleep disturbances. This can present in the form of sleep-onset insomnia (inability to fall asleep), difficulty staying asleep, or even nightmares that cause you to awaken during the night.
Although osteoporosis is not a guaranteed outcome of menopause, menopausal women are at a far greater risk of this disorder than those at other stages of life. In osteoporosis, loss of bone mass makes bones weaker and more brittle.
Many menopause symptoms have a tendency to taper off with time. Hormone levels may drop suddenly and dramatically only to level off at a new, but lowered concentration. Some symptoms become better over time simply because you can learn to manage them.
Even following menopause, it’s important to maintain a healthy level of key sex hormones. They are involved in a wide range of physiological processes and also help with energy, mood, and mental focus. With that in mind, hormonal health remains essential throughout life.
In some cases, it can be appropriate to seek hormone replacement therapy. This can alleviate some of the most significant symptoms of menopause. However, it will not restore the menstrual cycle, and carries with it its own potential health risks that must be considered.
Seeking appropriate medical care early in menopause can help you control the associated risks and enhance your quality of life. To learn more, simply contact us at Huey & Weprin Ob/Gyn.