The journey of menopause doesn’t have a clear starting or ending point. There are odd diversions, and its estimated time of arrival can span several years. As your childbearing years end, your body may react to menopause with a few surprising and uncomfortable symptoms.
Fortunately, there are ways to treat most symptoms. The treatment of menopause is possible with the help of your physician.
Keep reading for an overview of menopause, including common symptoms and solutions to help you navigate this phase of your life.
When Does Menopause Begin?
You may experience menopause-related symptoms, such as hot flashes and irregular periods, months or years before you are in the menopause phase. This time is called perimenopause.
The next phase, menopause, is a normal part of aging. It doesn’t begin until you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months—and you are not pregnant or ill. Most women experience menopause in their middle-age years—their 40s or 50s. Some women experience menopause earlier if they’ve had a hysterectomy or are undergoing specific treatments for cancer.
Menopause occurs as your female sex hormone levels naturally lower as you get older. Once your ovaries stop releasing eggs, you’ll no longer experience menstrual periods or be able to conceive.
If you want to educate yourself further on how menopause begins and what causes symptoms, sign up to get more information.
Symptoms of Menopause
You won’t know exactly when your body is undergoing menopause, but you can pay attention to your body for cues. While menopause symptoms vary significantly from woman to woman, focus on how you’re feeling and notice changes.
Some women never experience these symptoms, but if your symptoms begin to affect your quality of life negatively, call us to discuss your concerns with a physician.
One right way to tell if you’re on your way to menopause is noticing irregular periods. During this time, your periods may be heavier or lighter, come more or less often, or last longer and shorter than they have in the past.
Irregular periods are a sign of perimenopause. However, after 12 months with no period, you’re officially in menopause, and bleeding isn’t normal.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
During a hot flash, your skin may flush red, and your heartbeat may increase. You might feel warm or hot suddenly, for no apparent reason. Immediately following, you might feel suddenly cold. Night sweats are simply hot flashes that occur you sleep. Sometimes, these are so severe that they wake you.
It varies from woman to woman, but hot flashes generally last one to five minutes and can be mild or severe. You might have one a week, several an hour, or none at all.
If you’re experiencing hot flashes, but aren’t sure if it’s due to menopause, speak with your physician. Sometimes hot flashes are brought on by other medical conditions or certain medications.
If you suddenly wake up during the night or have trouble getting and staying asleep, it may be a sign you’re nearing menopause. Sometimes, trouble sleeping is directly related to other symptoms like night sweats.
As your hormone levels change, so will your mood. Symptoms of anxiety or depression may increase during menopause if you’ve experienced them in the past.
For some men and women, memory lapses are frequent during middle age—usually, it’s no big deal. Forgetfulness can stem from menopause, but also things like stress. You can consider minor memory lapses a typical but unfortunate symptom of menopause.
Change in Sex Drive
Menopause can affect your sex drive in several ways.
Some women report that they’re less interested in sex or have no drive while they’re in menopause. Other women enjoy sexual intercourse more because they don’t have to worry about birth control and getting pregnant.
During menopause, you might notice the skin around your vagina becoming drier, which makes sex painful.
Finally, you might also notice physical changes as your approaching and in menopause. Your hair may become drier and thinner. You might gain weight or distribute your weight differently.
Some women experience stiff joints or joints that hurt, making it harder to get around. It’s important to stay active because you may have to work harder to keep healthy and stay in shape.
Treatment of Menopause With the Help of Your Physician
If your symptoms bother you, or you think they’re abnormal, it’s time to talk to your doctor about how you can relieve them with menopause treatment. You can work together to decide which option is right for you.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy involves medications that contain female hormones to replace those lost during and after menopause. It’s a therapy used to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal discomfort.
There are two types of hormone replacement therapy: systemic hormone therapy and low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen.
Systemic Hormone Therapy
This therapy comes in pill, skin patch, gel, cream, or spray form. Estrogen can treat hot flashes and night sweats in addition to vaginal dryness, itching, burning, and pain during intercourse.
Progesterone and estrogen combined menopause remedies can reduce the risk of colon cancer. Other reports suggest that estrogen can lower the risk of heart disease when taking during the postmenopausal period.
Low-Dose Vaginal Preparations
Low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen can come in cream, tablet, or ring form. This therapy can treat vaginal symptoms in addition to some urinary symptoms while minimizing the absorption of estrogen into your body.
Low-dose vaginal preparations are not effective at treating hot flashes and night sweats.
If you haven’t had a hysterectomy, your doctor will likely prescribe estrogen in combination with progesterone or progestin. Estrogen can stimulate the growth of the lining of the uterus, increasing your risk of uterine cancer when not balanced by progesterone.
If you have undergone a hysterectomy, you do not have to take progestin.
Treatment of Abnormal Bleeding or Painful Periods
Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, can be a symptom of perimenopause. During this time, you may experience more substantial, longer periods of bleeding combined with more severe cramping while menstruating.
There are OTC medications available to help reduce period pain, including:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs
- non-narcotic analgesic or pain-relieving medications
- medications with acetylsalicylic acids, such as Asprin
- analgesic transdermal pads or gels
If your dysmenorrhea is severe, your physician may recommend a low-dose birth control pill, patch, ring, or IUD to regulate your periods. If you have very severe pain, prescription-grade pain medications are available, but rarely necessary.
If other treatments are unsuccessful, your doctor may speak with you about a hysterectomy. If you have one, you’ll experience full menopause after your operation, regardless of your age.
We’re Here to Care for You Through All Stages of Life
Yes, menopause is a natural part of aging, but you should never ignore changes that seem severe or abnormal. Your quality of life doesn’t have to decrease during this uncertain time.
Dr. Schmidt’s clinic was opened with an emphasis on women’s health care issues through all stages of life. She believes in empowering women through support and education regarding their health.
If you want to talk to a doctor about your symptoms and treatment for menopause, contact us today. We’ll help you navigate your menopause journey, every step of the way.