Menopause: Symptoms and Causes

What Is Menopause?

Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. Generally, it’s diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. and can no longer become pregnant naturally. It usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55, but can develop before or after this age range.

Menopause can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as hot flashes and weight gain. Compared to most women, medical treatment isn’t required for the pause of the menstrual cycle.

When does menopause begin and how long does it last?

Most women first begin developing menopause symptoms about four years before their last period. Symptoms often continue until about four years after a woman’s last period.

A small number of women experience the pause of the menstrual cycle symptoms for up to a decade before menopause actually occurs, and 1 in 10 women experience menopausal symptoms for 12 years following their last period.

The median age for menopause is 51, though it may occur on average up to two years earlier for Black and Latina women. As more considerations are needed to understand the onset of menopause for women of colour.

There are many factors that help determine when you’ll begin menopause, including genetics and ovary health. Generally, perimenopause occurs before menopause. Perimenopause is a time when your hormones begin to change in preparation for the pause of the menstrual cycle.

It can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Particularly many women begin perimenopause at some point after their mid-40s. Such as other women skip perimenopause and enter menopause suddenly.

About 1 percent of women begin menopause before the age of 40, which is called premature menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency. About 5 percent of women undergo menopause between the ages of 40 and 45. This is referred to as early menopause.

Perimenopause vs. menopause vs. postmenopause

During perimenopause, menstrual periods become irregular. Such as your periods may be late, or you may completely skip one or more periods. Menstrual flow may also become heavier or lighter.

Generally, the pause of the menstrual cycle is defined as a lack of menstruation for one full year.

Post-menopause refers to the years after menopause has occurred.

Symptoms of menopause

Generally, every woman’s menopause experience is unique. Symptoms are usually more severe when menopause occurs suddenly or over a shorter period of time.

Such conditions that impact the health of the ovary, like cancer or hysterectomy, or certain lifestyle choices, like smoking, tend to increase the severity and duration of symptoms.

Apart from menstruation changes, the symptoms of perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause are generally the same. Thus the most common early signs of perimenopause are:

  • less frequent menstruation
  • heavier or lighter periods than you normally experience
  • vasomotor symptoms, including hot flashes,
  • also night sweats, and flushing

In conclusion, an estimated 75 percent of women experience hot flashes with menopause.

Other common symptoms of menopause include:

  • insomnia
  • vaginal dryness
  • weight gain
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • difficulty concentrating
  • memory problems
  • reduced libido, or sex drive
  • dry skin, mouth, and eyes
  • increased urination
  • sore or tender breasts
  • headaches
  • racing heart
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • reduced muscle mass
  • painful or stiff joints
  • also reduced bone mass
  • less full breasts
  • hair thinning or loss
  • increased hair growth on other areas of the body, such as the face, neck, chest, and upper back

What are the complications of the pause of the menstrual cycle?

For example, common complications of menopause include:

  • vulvovaginal atrophy
  • dyspareunia, or painful intercourse
  • slower metabolic function
  • osteoporosis, or weaker bones with reduced mass and strength
  • mood or sudden emotional changes
  • cataracts
  • periodontal disease
  • also urinary incontinence
  • heart or blood vessel disease

Cause of menopause

In the first place, menopause is a natural process that occurs as the ovaries age and produces fewer reproductive hormones.

In this case, the body begins to undergo several changes in response to lower levels of:

  • estrogen
  • progesterone
  • testosterone
  • follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • luteinizing hormone (LH)

For example one of the most notable changes is the loss of active ovarian follicles. Generally, ovarian follicles are the structures that produce and release eggs from the ovary wall, allowing menstruation and fertility.

Especially most women first notice the frequency of their period becoming less consistent, as the flow becomes heavier and longer. Thus this usually occurs at some point in the mid-to-late 40s. Generally, by the age of 52, most U.S. women have undergone menopause.

The pause of the menstrual cycle

In the meantime in some cases, menopause is induced or caused by injury or surgical removal of the ovaries and related pelvic structures.

Such as common causes of induced menopause include:

  • bilatera oophorectomy, or surgical removal of the ovaries
  • ovarian ablation, or the shutdown of ovary function, which may be done by hormone therapy, surgery, or radiotherapy techniques in women with estrogen receptor-positive tumors
  • pelvic radiation
  • pelvic injuries that severely damage or destroy the ovaries

Diagnosis of menopause

For the most part, it’s worth talking with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing troublesome or disabling menopause symptoms, or you’re experiencing menopause symptoms and are 45 years of age or younger.

For instance, a new blood test known as the PicoAMH Elisa diagnostic test was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration Trusted Source. This test is used to help determine whether a woman has entered menopause or is getting close to entering menopause.

This new test may be helpful to women who show symptoms of perimenopause, which can also have adverse health impacts. For the most part, early menopause is associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis and fracture, heart disease, cognitive changes, vaginal changes and loss of libido, and mood changes.

Your doctor can also order a blood test that will measure the level of certain hormones in the blood, usually FSH and a form of estrogen called estradiol.

The pause of the menstrual cycle

For the most part consistently elevated FSH blood levels of 30mlU/ml or higher, combined with a lack of menstruation for one consecutive year, is usually confirmation of menopause. Saliva tests and over-the-counter (OTC) urine tests are also available, but they’re unreliable and expensive.

During perimenopause, FSH and estrogen levels fluctuate daily, so most healthcare providers will diagnose this condition based on symptoms, medical history, and menstrual information.

The pause of the menstrual cycle

Depending on your symptoms and health history, your healthcare provider may also order additional blood tests to help rule out other underlying conditions that may be responsible for your symptoms.

Also, additional blood tests commonly used to help confirm menopause include:

  • thyroid function tests
  • blood lipid profile
  • liver function tests
  • kidney function tests
  • testosterone, progesterone, prolactin, estradiol, and chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) tests

Treatments for the pause of the menstrual cycle

In addition, you may need treatment if your symptoms are severe or affecting your quality of life. Hence hormone therapy may be an effective treatment in women under the age of 60, or within 10 years of menopause onset, for the reduction or management of:

  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • flushing
  • vaginal atrophy
  • osteoporosis

The pause of the menstrual cycle

In general, medications may be used to treat more specific menopause symptoms, like hair loss and vaginal dryness.

Additional medications sometimes used for menopause symptoms include:

  • topical minoxidil 5 percent, used once daily for hair thinning and loss
  • antidandruff shampoos, commonly ketoconazole 2 percent and zinc pyrithione 1 percent, used for hair loss
  • eflornithine hydrochloride topical cream for unwanted hair growth
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly paroxetine 7.5 milligrams for hot flashes, anxiety, and depression
  • nonhormonal vaginal moisturizers and lubricants
  • low-dose estrogen-based vaginal lubricants in the form of a cream, ring, or tablet
  • ospemifene for vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
  • prophylactic antibiotics for recurrent UTIs
  • sleep medications for insomnia
  • denosumab, teriparatide, raloxifene, or calcitonin for postmenstrual osteoporosis

How home remedies and lifestyle changes helps

Generally, there are several ways to reduce minor-to-moderate menopause symptoms naturally, using home remedies, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments.

Thus here are some at-home tips for managing menopause symptoms:

Keeping cool and staying comfortable

Dress in loose, layered clothing, especially during the nighttime and during warm or unpredictable weather. As a result, this can help you manage hot flashes.

Keeping your bedroom cool and avoiding heavy blankets at night can also help reduce your chances of night sweats. Particularly if you regularly have night sweats, consider using a waterproof sheet under your bedding to protect your mattress.

You can also carry a portable fan to help cool you down if you’re feeling flush.

Exercising and managing your weight

Reduce your daily calorie intake by 400 to 600 calories to help manage your weight. It’s also important to exercise moderately for 20 to 30 minutes a day. This can help:

  • increase energy
  • promote a better night’s sleep
  • improve mood
  • promote your general well-being

Communicating your needs for the pause of the menstrual cycle

In a brief talk to a therapist or psychologist about any feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness, isolation, insomnia, and identity changes.

You should also try talking to your family members, loved ones, or friends about feelings of anxiety, mood changes, or depression so that they know your needs.

Supplementing your diet in menopause

Above all take calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium supplements to help reduce your risk for osteoporosis and improve energy levels and sleep. In this case, talk to your doctor about supplements that can help you with your individual health needs.

Practicing relaxation techniques

Practice relaxation and breathing techniques, such as:

  • yoga
  • box breathing
  • also medication

Taking care of your skin

For instance, apply moisturizers daily to reduce skin dryness. You should also avoid excessive bathing or swimming, which can dry out or irritate your skin.

Managing sleeping issues in menopause

So then use OTC sleep medications to temporarily manage your insomnia or consider discussing natural sleep aids with your doctor. Talk to your doctor if you regularly have trouble sleeping so they can help you manage it and get a better night’s rest.

Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol use

In this case, stop smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. In particular exposure to cigarettes may make your symptoms worse.

Also, you should limit your alcohol intake to reduce worsening symptoms. Heavy drinking during menopause may increase your risk of health concerns.

Other remedies

Such as some limited studies have supported the use of herbal remedies for menopausal symptoms caused by estrogen deficiency.

Also, natural supplements and nutrients that may help limit menopause symptoms include:

  • soy
  • vitamin E
  • isoflavone
  • melatonin
  • flax seed

As a result, there are also claims that black cohosh may improve some symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. But, in a recent review of studies, little evidence was found to support these claims. Such as more analysis is needed.

Similarly, analysis of Trusted Source from 2015 found no evidence to support claims that omega-3 fatty acids can improve vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause.

Point of view

In short, Menopause is the natural pause, or stopping, of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and marks the end of fertility. Most women experience menopause by the age of 52, but pelvic or ovarian damage may cause sudden menopause earlier in life. Genetics or underlying conditions may also lead to the early onset of menopause.

Many women experience menopause symptoms in the few years before menopause, most commonly hot flashes, night sweats, and flushing. Symptoms can continue for four or more years after menopause.

You may benefit from treatment, such as hormone therapy if your symptoms are severe or affect your quality of life. Generally, symptoms can be managed or reduced using natural remedies and lifestyle adjustments.

As with any treatment you’re considering, consult with your doctor before following any medication — natural or otherwise.