Understanding the signs and symptoms of menopause

Because every woman has a different experience,it is important to recognize the different signs and symptoms of menopause.

Menopause is one of the major changes that happen in a woman’s life. It begins when ovaries start making less estrogen and progesterone causing certain processes in the body to go haywire.

Doctors define menopause as the time after 12 months have passed since the woman’s last period. It is a biological process, not a medical illness, which involves a process of change - physically, emotionally, psychosocially, sexually, and even spiritually.

Though they mostly occur between the ages of 50 and 51, signs and symptoms of menopause can start anywhere from their 30’s and to some, not until their 60’s.

The hormonal changes that occur at menopause and the years preceding it can cause a variety of symptoms. Signs and symptoms of menopause can vary among women, and these include:

Irregular menstruation

Women experience irregular periods due to the changing hormone levels. This may be first clue that menopause is close at hand. Periods may stop suddenly, or gradually get lighter or heavier and then stop.

Hot flashes

About 85% of women experience hot flashes. A hot flash is a warm or flushed sensation that moves upward from the chest to the shoulders, neck and head. Skin temperatures rapidly rise and may cause facial redness and sweating. Hot flashes usually last from 30 seconds to several minutes or longer.

Decreased fertility

Irregular periods due to the changing hormone levels and the decreased frequency of ovulation (egg release) are typical signs and symptoms of menopause. When ovulation begins to fluctuate, women are less likely to become pregnant.

Vaginal changes

The tissues lining the vagina, vulva and urethra become drier, thinner and less elastic. With decreased lubrication, women may experience burning, itching and discomfort during sexual intercourse. There is also an increased risk of infections to the urinary tract or vagina.

Emotional/psychological changes

Signs and symptoms of menopause in women include mood swings, irritability and emotional upsets. Aside from hormonal fluctuations, other factors may also contribute to these changes, including stress, insomnia, and other life changes.

Physical appearance

Because of hormonal changes, women may notice a loss of fullness in the breasts, thinning hair and wrinkled and dry skin.

Night sweats and sleep disturbance

Night sweats are often the result of hot flashes. One may suddenly wake up at the middle of the night with soaking sweat to be followed by chills. As a result, sleep deprivation along with its apparent effects is very likely.

Signs and symptoms of menopause are important to understand.
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