Menopause

Menopause is a naturally occurring biological process that marks the end of your menstrual cycles and fertility. You are said to be in menopause 12 months after your last menstrual cycle. For most women, it usually occurs in their 40s or 50s.

Symptoms

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry skin
  • Sagging breasts
  • Thinning of hair
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood changes

Causes

  • Decreased production of female hormones as a normal part of the aging process
  • Surgical removal of uterus and/or ovaries
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (ovaries do not produce sufficient reproductive hormones)

Complications

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Vaginal dryness and loss of tissue elasticity can cause pain during sexual intercourse
  • Loss of libido (sexual desire)
  • Weight gain due to decreased metabolism

Diagnosis

Your doctor may suspect menopause based on your signs and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, blood tests to check your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen (estradiol) may be ordered.

Management of symptoms

Based on the severity of your symptoms and the results of the diagnostic tests, your doctor may recommend the following options:

  • Hormone replacement therapy: Your doctor may recommend treatment with hormones including estrogen and/or progestin for your hot flashes and bone loss. It may also help prevent cardiovascular problems if started within five years of menopause.
  • Vagina estrogen: Small doses of estrogen in the form of cream, pills, or rings can help you manage vaginal dryness, urinary symptoms and discomfort during intercourse.
  • Antidepressants: Low-dose antidepressants can help you manage hot flashes when hormone replacement therapy is not advisable for you, and they may also help improve your mood.
  • Medication treatment: You may also be prescribed medications to reduce your bone loss and risk for fractures.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Symptoms

  • Identify factors that trigger your hot flashes, like hot beverages, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods, and try to avoid them.
  • Cool off hot flashes by drinking cold water or staying in a cool room.
  • Use water-based vaginal lubricants to help you with vaginal dryness and discomfort.
  • Reduce stress, get adequate sleep, eat healthy, stay active and don’t smoke.
  • Exercise regularly