Menopause occurs when the ovaries of an aging woman stop producing hormones (estrogen and progesterone). The average age of menopause varies widely. In industrialized countries, the average age is 51 years with variations between 39 and 57 years. Menopause before the age of 40 is called early menopause and requires further investigation.
Menopause – Symptoms and causes
Menopause can occur naturally, or as a consequence of genetics, medical reasons (removal of ovaries surgery, different chemotherapy regimens for cancers) or immune causes.
Before making any estimation on menopause symptoms, duration and remedies, it’s necessary to define specific terms as: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. Perimenopause is a series of physiological events that precede menopause and menstrual cycles characterized by different disorders and changes, such as vasomotor symptoms, hot flashes or vaginal dryness. This period lasts 4-5 years.
Menopause is characterized by signs and symptoms caused by decreased serum hormones. The symptoms vary from person to person and include a wide range of events.
– Irregular menstrual cycles
– Hot flashes (sudden feeling of warmth)
– Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
– Affective disorders (irritability, mood swings)
– Sexual behavior disorders
– Migraines, headaches
– Pruritus (itch)
– Absence of menstrual cycles
– Dry skin, nails and hair
– Vaginal dryness
– Pain with intercourse
– Increased risk of urinary tract infections
– Sore breasts
– Weight gain
Long-term effects of menopause
It is important to note that long-term effects of menopause may refer to osteoporosis, heart and nervous system disorders. All these events occur as a result of declining ovarian hormones. Cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of mortality for postmenopausal women (due to aging nor to lipid changes).
All women in menopause or perimenopause need a medical examination at least once a year. They need to be well informed about the risks of cardiovascular and bone diseases that may occur during this period. Women in perimenopause who still have menstrual periods should know that they can still get pregnant.
Lifestyle changes, diet and introducing a regular program of exercise can reduce the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.