Menopause indicates the end of your menstruation cycle.
It mostly occurs in women between their 40s and 50s but it can differ from person to person.
Menopause describes the changes in your body before and after your period stops coming.
The end of the menstrual cycle marks the end of your reproductive years likewise.
Causes of Menopause
Menopause occurs when ovulation stops every month hence, women stop getting their periods.
Ovulation is the release of an egg every month. These eggs are present in a woman since birth and when the ovary stops releasing them, menopause happens.
If the periods don’t come for 12 consecutive months, then you are said to be on menopause.
Menopause is a naturally occurring process that is inevitable but sometimes you can have early menopause as a result of any health conditions.
The causes of Menopause include:
Reduction in Reproductive Hormones
Estrogen and Progesterone are reproductive hormones in women.
As you reach your 30’s, these hormones start declining as the ovaries produce lesser amounts of estrogen and progesterone.
Both these hormones are responsible for regulating the release of your egg (ovulation) and thus affecting fertility and leading to menstruation.
By your 40’s your menstrual period will become irregular. The blood flow will also fluctuate from heavy to light before entirely coming to a stop.
Radiation and Chemotherapy
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can affect your menstrual cycle and eventually leading to menopause.
You may have symptoms like hot flashes right after your chemotherapy. However, this menopause can also be temporary.
Menopause occurs in radiation therapy only if the radiation is aimed at the ovaries. If the cancer is in other parts of the body then radiation therapy does not lead to menopause.
Oophorectomy is the surgery for the removal of ovaries.
Ovaries release the egg and produce the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone.
If ovaries are removed there is immediate menopause.
Your symptoms can be more severe than usual because rather than occurring over a long period of time, you now have immediate menopause.
The hysterectomy (removal of uterus) does not cause instant menopause.
Your periods will stop but your ovaries will still keep releasing eggs and producing hormones.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
Menopause that occurs before the age of 40 is called premature menopause.
1 percent of women go through premature menopause.
One reason for that is primary ovarian insufficiency when the ovaries are not producing sufficient reproductive hormones.
Conditions like autoimmune diseases and some genetic makeup can affect your hormones.
Women are usually put on hormone therapy till they reach their menopause age because premature menopause can also affect other organs like the heart and brain.
Symptoms of Menopause
You will have regular hot flashes when you’re menopause will be near.
Moreover, irregular periods and mood changes are a big indicator of menopause.
Other symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Sleeping issues
- Dry vagina
- Weight gain
- Reduced breast fullness
Some symptoms after menopause include depressions, muscle pain, libido change and fatigue.
Ovaries start producing lesser estrogen over time.
This stage occurs years before menopause happens but there are already symptoms like irregular periods and them being lighter or heavier.
You may even skip periods in-between months. You may get them in one month and not the next.
However, getting pregnant is still possible in the perimenopause stage.
This stage lasts till menopause occurs and that can go for about 4 years.
In the last 2 years of perimenopause, estrogen levels decline fastly.
Menopause is declared after 12 months of no menstruation.
Your ovaries will stop ovulation and your estrogen levels will be extremely low.
As the name suggests, this stage happens years after your menopause.
Significant symptoms like hot flashes would reduce but others like fatigue and muscle pain may take over.
Low levels of estrogen can also pose some health risks.
Diagnosis of Menopause
You can mostly tell you are in the perimenopause phase or are extremely near your menopause by the symptoms you are experiencing.
But to confirm it the doctor may recommend some tests.
Blood test is done to track the Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels which rise when you are nearing menopause. Due to the rise in FSH, estrogen levels decrease.
To determine the estrogen levels in ovaries your estradiol is checked also through the same blood test.
Blood tests can also detect Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) levels and Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels (TSH).
AMH is found in the reproductive tissues and can help tell about the eggs in ovaries and hypothyroidism has similar symptoms to that of Menopause.
Therefore, TSH it is done to rule out the possibility of underactive thyroid.
All these test help confirm that you are either perimenopausal or have entered menopause.
Treatment of Menopause
The treatments available for it help ease the symptoms and provide relief but obviously, they do not stop it.
Menopause is an inevitable natural process and treatments can just help reduce what you are going through during it.
Estrogen given in small doses is effective against hot flashes.
The amount will be given according to your medical history and sometimes progestin is given alongside estrogen.
Getting estrogen therapy protects you from bone loss but taking it regularly can pose cardiac issues, heart disease and breast cancer risk.
It is sometimes present in birth control pills.
Vaginal estrogen creams, tablets or rings can help reduce vaginal dryness.
The estrogen in these creams absorbs in the tissues hence providing some relief in dryness.
Mood swings and depression are significant symptoms.
A low dose of anti-depressants containing serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help with depression as well as reducing hot flashes.
Antidepressants and Gabapentin (used for seizures) can help treat hot flashes when you are unable to take hormone therapy.
Clonidine pill which is also available as a patch can help reduce hot flashes.
Bone loss or osteoporosis may occur after menopause because of the lack of estrogen.
Some medications can be given to patients to reduce the risk of fractures and vitamin D supplements can strengthen the bones.
While medicines may work, you can also implement some lifestyle changes and home remedies to reduce the symptoms of menopause.
Always dress in layers, keep plenty of cold water beside you and stay in cool places. This can help reduce your hot flashes that you will get time and again in your early phase.
Exercise regularly and avoid caffeinated products that can help make it hard to sleep. Difficulty sleeping is a symptom and to overcome it you should maintain a healthy lifestyle so you are not bothered at night.
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through Kegels can help reduce the urge to urinate and urinary incontinence.
You can also use vaginal lubricants that are available over the counter to reduce the vaginal dryness and itching you may feel in this condition.
Moreover, you can practice deep breathing, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation to ease some symptoms.
Maintaining a good healthy diet full of nutrients and supplements if required is essential in old age.
Smoking is risky in old age but you should especially avoid it after menopause. Smoking can increase hot flashes.
Furthermore, you should make exercise a part of your routine.
Old age comes with many problems and a few lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in your health.
It also leads to certain health risks and complications.
The decline in estrogen levels leads to an increase in cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure.
These diseases are responsible for most deaths in both women and men therefore, estrogen therapy or regular exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce cardiovascular diseases.
Reduced estrogen levels make bones weaker making them more susceptible to fractures.
Bone density reduction and bone loss may happen rapidly in the first few menopausal years, this eventually causes osteoporosis.
Women who have osteoporosis in the late menopause stage are already at risk of getting fractures in the hips and wrists.
Your vaginal tissues lose their elasticity resulting in urinary incontinence.
This is a strong urge to urinate and that too very frequently.
Some urine passes due to coughing or laughing involuntarily.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises called the Kegels can help improve urinary incontinence. Moreover, applying vaginal creams can give some estrogen to the tissues.
Estrogen hormone therapy can help reduce the chances of developing Urinary tract infection and help treat the changes in the vagina.
This condition causes vaginal dryness due to lack of elasticity which can be uncomfortable during sexual intercourse and can cause bleeding.
Moreover, your libido can also decrease.
Over the counter, water-based lubricants can help overcome the dryness. If they don’t then vaginal rings and creams may reduce this dryness.
Most women will gain weight during and after menopause. In all three stages, women will experience some weight gain.
This happens due to slow metabolism.
In order to maintain your weight you should try exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet.
Menopause is an inevitable natural process. It has to occur.
However, it is up to you if you want to just let it pass or make your quality of life better by treating your symptoms.
A healthy lifestyle and good eating habits can prevent you from contracting many diseases related to menopause in old age.