Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Are you worried about your mood swings? Do you now see a change in your menses? If you are middle aged women and experience these symptoms quite often then these could be menopause signs. We all have heard a lot about menopause hot flashes but there can be much more to it. Knowing about menopause can help you prepare for this change of life.
Menopause definition says that it is a phase in a woman’s life when the menstruation ceases. It is typically seen in women between 40 to 50 years of age but can vary in some. For some women, this change of life may not be bothersome at all. But for some, menopause can be a troublesome phase, with many physical and emotional complaints.
Menopause is a phase when there are many hormonal changes in a woman’s body. Hence, every woman reacts differently to it. While the intensity and severity of menopause symptoms may vary, the basic complaints remain similar.
Some areas that get affected during menopause or some menopause signs include:
Changes in menstrual cycle – Many women note changes in menstrual cycle, wherein the bleeding is more or sometimes less. Some may note irregularities in menstrual periods and may have longer or shorter duration of menses.
Hot flashes/ Hot flushes – This is one of the most popular symptoms of menopause. Menopause hot flashes are often experienced as sudden hot feeling in an area. You may feel hot flashes in the upper or lower body and is more common in the head, face and neck region. The episode of hot flashes may last for few minutes and then return to normal. For many women, hot flashes are followed by sweating at the end of the episode. When this is experienced at night it is called night sweats. All these complaints occur as the body tries to adjust to the changing hormone levels.
Vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse – Some women experience pain during intercourse which may be mainly because of vaginal dryness. Reduced levels of oestrogen often affect the inner lining of vaginal mucosa. It can also cause thinning and inflammation of the walls, resulting in vaginal atrophy or shrinking. This can cause vaginal dryness which also leads to pain during intercourse. You also have burning and itching around the vagina with excess need to urinate. Decreased sex drive is another common complaint experienced by many. Reduced oestrogen makes sexual intimacy less interesting and lacks the drive.
Sleep problems – The changing hormone levels can also interfere with sleep. Many women find it difficult to fall asleep during the night or some may wake up in the middle of night and stay awake for a long time. This can increase the daytime fatigue and cause further problems. Some may also experience sleep apnoea.
Urinary complaints – With approaching menopause, you may note urinary complaints. There may be frequent urination and decreased bladder control, which can cause spontaneous urination when sneezing or coughing. This is mainly because of weak muscles of the pelvic floor. Decreasing levels of oestrogen can also cause urinary tract infections and burning urination.
Skin and hair changes – Thinning of hair and dry skin is also common during menopause. The decreasing hormones cause changes in the tissues and they lose their elasticity and hydration, making the skin dry.
Mood swings – As with any hormone problem, menopause too brings along mood swings, depression, anxiety and increased irritability.
Menopause and health risks
During the reproductive period, a woman is protected from many diseases due to the oestrogen effect. However, experts believe that as menopause sets in, the risk of several disorders increases.
- Menopausal women have greater risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Get your blood pressure, cardiac markers and lipid levels checked.
- Declining oestrogen can cause bone loss, making bones brittle and weak. Thus, osteoporosis is a great risk during menopause, which increases the risk of fractures. Know your bone health with appropriate investigations.
- Surprisingly, menopause can also trigger problems like autoimmune disorders and dry eyes in some women. Blood tests can help detect these conditions.
- Some studies suggest that oestrogen plays an important role in protecting your liver. So, menopausal women also have greater risk of liver disorders. Know if your liver is healthy with liver function tests.
- As menopause causes weakening of pelvic floor muscles, the risk of pelvic prolapse increases. Women with a complicated pregnancy or labour may be at greater risk. Regular check-ups can help.
Menopause and weight gain
Oestrogen upholds metabolism during reproductive period but as it declines during menopause, it affects the body metabolism. Menopause and weight gain is one of the hot topics of discussion as it can severely affect some women making it difficult to maintain weight. Affected metabolism not only causes weight gain but also increases the risk of other metabolic disorders like thyroid problems, diabetes and even heart diseases.
Menopause treatment mainly depends on the existing complaints and associated problems. Ideally, symptoms give a fair idea of menopause, however, certain tests for menopause may help. Doctors may advise hormone tests to plan appropriate treatment. Thyroid tests may be required to rule out thyroid problems as they have similar symptoms.
Treatment for menopause includes hormone replacement therapy, to make up for the declining oestrogen. Other symptomatic treatment and nutritional supplements may be considered, as appropriate. Rest, healthy diet, moderate exercise and stress relieving methods may also be advised.
Menopause is indeed a major change and can show up in various ways. But you can smoothly sail through this period if you are aware. So, watch your symptoms; take appropriate tests and stay healthy.
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