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Menopause

MenopauseMenopause is a transition that may start in women during their 30’s or 40’s and last well into their 50’s or 60’s. The occurrence of signs and symptoms of menopause happen well before periods cease permanently, and once the periods have stopped for about a year, menopause has happened.

Menopause is a natural biological process that every woman must undergo. Although associated with hormonal, physical and psychosocial changes in life, menopause does not have to be the end of youth or of sexuality. Over the centuries, few women lived beyond menopause, and now many spend half their lives in that mode.

In recent decades hormone therapy has been used to relieve the signs and symptoms of menopause and many doctors hoped to prevent diseases associated with aging. Evidence shows that hormone therapy may actually increase risk of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, breast cancer and stroke.

Estrogen therapy is still viewed as a safe, short-term option for some women, but numerous other therapies also are available to help you manage menopausal symptoms and stay healthy during this important phase of your life.

Some symptoms women undergo while being premenopausal are:

Vaginal and/ or urinary changes- with declined estrogen levels, tissues lining the vagina and urethra — the opening to your bladder — may become drier, thinner and less elastic. This leads to decreased lubrication, and one may experience burning or itching, along with increased risk of infections to the urinary tract or vagina.
 
Hot flashes- with decreased estrogen levels, blood vessels may expand rapidly, causing one’s temperature to rise. This feeling of warmth that moves upward from the chest to the shoulders, neck and head may be very uncomfortable. The face might seem flushed, and red blotches may appear on the chest, neck and arms. Many hot flashes last from 30 seconds to several minutes, although they may last longer.
 
Sleep disturbances and night sweats- Night sweats are often seen as a consequence to hot flashes. One may awaken from sound sleep with soaking night sweats followed by chills. The lack of sleep may affect your mood and overall health.

Changes in appearance- Women may gain a modest amount of weight during the menopausal transition. Fat that was once concentrated in the hips and thighs may settle above your waist and onto the abdomen. A loss of fullness in the breasts, thinning hair or wrinkles on the skin may be more noticeable

Emotional and cognitive changes- Irritability, fatigue, decreased memory and diminished concentration are some of the more severe symptoms menopause approaches. They are attributable to hormonal fluctuations, and yet other factors contribute to these changes, such as sleep deprivation and the stress of everyday life.

Menopause is understood to begin naturally when ovaries begin to make less estrogen and progesterone. During the reproductive years hormones regulate monthly cycles of ovulation and menstruation in the body.  In the late 30’s, the amount of progesterone women’s bodies produce diminishes, with the remaining eggs from the ovaries less likely to ever be fertilized. Eventually the periods stop, and one can no longer become pregnant.
The onset of menopause occurs in two stages:

Perimenopause- When one begins experiencing menopausal signs and symptoms, although still ovulating. Hormonal levels rise and fall unevenly, including hot flashes with variations in the periods. The flow may be irregular or heavier or lighter than usual. This is a normal process leading up to menopause and may last four to five years or longer.

Postmenopause. Once the one year mark has passed since the last period, menopause has been reached. The ovaries produce much less estrogen and progesterone, and they don't release eggs. The years that follow are called postmenopause.

It is important to work with your doctor during this period of transition to see what methods of treatment are appropriate for you. There are many treatment options not just dealing with menopause, but a myriad of other symptoms that can be treated in conjunction with your menopause. The best way to approach your doctor is to be honest an open about what your expectations might be, your doctor will be able to inform you about the various treatment options out there for you.  

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