Menopause Symptoms

The menopause is a time in a woman’s life when she stops having periods. As a woman ages, she becomes less fertile and eventually stops releasing a monthly egg altogether. Hormone levels, especially estrogen, change within the body during this process. This is a natural part of life but can present a number of menopause symptoms.

When Does the Menopause Start?

Menopause generally starts at around 45 to 55 years of age but can happen at a younger age or not at all. Those who experience the menopause before the age of 40 are said to have premature menopause or ovarian insufficiency.

How Do I Know If I Am Going Through the Menopause?

Menopause begins with a change in the nature of monthly periods. This can mean either more or less frequent intervals, or heavier or lighter flow. It is generally said that a woman has gone through the menopause after a period of one year without vaginal bleeding.

Due to the change in hormones within the body, a number of symptoms are common. A majority of women will suffer from some kind of menopause-related medical issue. Some can be severe, while others may barely be noticed. Normal symptoms include night sweating, hot flushes, depression or anxiety, vaginal dryness or soreness, low libido, poor sleep and memory or concentration issues. Any of these can be observed some years before the actual menopause begins and last for some time after.

What Causes These Symptoms?

The main cause of menopause-related symptoms is the change in the body’s production of hormones. As the ovaries become less active, the normal hormonal cycle becomes disrupted. Both men and women have a regular hormonal cycle that can affect natural mood and health. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, the ovaries produce estradiol, testosterone and estrogen at regular intervals.

These have the effect of prompting periods of fertility and the movement of an egg ready for impregnation. As periods become less common and eventually stop, this hormone production changes abruptly. This is the reason for the symptoms related to the menopause, with the various hormones and their changes causing discomfort until a woman’s body finds a new balance after monthly fertile cycles have ceased. The exact cause of each symptom is not entirely clear due to an incomplete understanding of the impact of hormones on the body.

Osteoporosis and the Menopause

As well as causing a number of symptoms initially, the hormone changes experienced during the menopause can also increase the risk of more serious health concerns. One of the most concerning is osteoporosis. This affection is a weakening of bone mass and a subsequent increased risk of breakages and difficulties in repair.

Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men as estrogen changes are a substantial risk factor. When estrogen levels drop after the menopause, bone density generally decreases. If this weakening continues to an extreme degree (by a standard measure of 2.5 below that of a young adult) then osteoporosis can be said to have occurred.

Heart Disease and the Menopause

Heart disease can also become a problem for women who have passed through the menopause. Estrogen is believed to have a protective effect on the heart, keeping the arteries and vessels supple and healthy.

As before, however, the exact relationship between heart disease and estrogen is not clear. This is why doctors are hesitant to use hormone replacement therapy for those with increased heart disease risk, as there seems to be little evidence of it having a positive effect.

With both heart disease and osteoporosis, and the wider symptoms of menopause, a healthy lifestyle has proven to be the most effective treatment. Those who smoke, are overweight and perform little exercise have been found not only to undergo the menopause sooner but suffer more profoundly from the negative effects. For those already suffering any of the problems, a change in diet is often advised alongside gentle exercise.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, HRT may be a viable treatment. You can schedule an online consultation with one of our doctors to determine your suitability for treatment.

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