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Menopause

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Menopause

Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. The average age women go through menopause is 51. The first sign of menopause is a change in a woman’s menstrual periods. This could be lighter or heavier bleeding, skipping periods, or periods may be longer or shorter than usual. Eventually, periods will stop when the ovaries stop making enough estrogen to start ovulation.

  • Common Symptoms
  • Therapies and Treatments
Common Symptoms

Common Symptoms

  • Hot Flashes: This is the most common symptom of menopause and is reported by over 75% of women in the United States. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat on your upper body and face. Skin may turn red and you may sweat. These can last from seconds to several minutes, sometimes even longer. They can happen at any time of the day or night. Hot flashes range in severity and frequency for everyone. Some women experience them for a few months while others struggle with them for years. Hot flashes, although frustrating, are not harmful.
  • Trouble Sleeping: Many women find it takes longer to fall asleep. Also, hot flashes often wake women up in the middle of the night. Some women experience less REM sleep. Without this stage of sleep, you will wake up feeling unrested and tired. Lack of sleep leads to its own set of problems including mood swings, fatigue, and inability to cope with daily activities.
  • Vaginal and Urinary Tract Changes: The lining of the vagina may become itchy and dry due to a loss of estrogen. This may cause pain during sex, burning, itching, and increase one’s chances of infection. The urethra can also become dry, inflamed, and irritated. Some women may experience frequent urination or an increased risk for bladder infection.
  • Bone and Body Changes: The rate of bone loss increases at menopause. Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone breaks. The hips, wrists, and spine are the most affected. Also, the lack of estrogen makes women more susceptible to heart attacks and stroke after menopause.
  • Emotional Changes: The change in hormone levels during menopause may cause anxiety, irritability, and fatigue. At this age, women are often dealing with other stressors in life related to money or family, which compound their mood changes.
  • Sexuality: Lower hormone levels may decrease sex drive and your ability to have an orgasm. Vaginal dryness can also make sex uncomfortable without a lubricant. However, if you have been having sex regularly, you ma not notice any major changes during menopause.
Therapies and Treatments

Therapies and Treatments

  • Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy can replace female hormones that are no longer produced by the ovaries. This is most often prescribed as pills, vaginal rings, or skin patches. Estrogen can treat hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and can relieve certain issues related to the urinary tract. It can also protect against bone loss and reduce the risk of colon cancer. However, in women with a uterus, using just estrogen can increase the risk of endometrial cancer. Progestin should be used in combination with estrogen to mitigate this risk, but progestin can increase the risk of breast cancer. With hormone therapy, some women may start bleeding again. While not harmful, this can be frustrating.
  • Preventing Bone Loss: There are a number of medications women can take to help prevent bone loss. These include bisphosphonates or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). Calcitonin has also been shown to slow the breaking down of bone. This can be given via injection or nasal spray. Parathyroid hormone can also be used.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: A low fat, low cholesterol diet will help you stay healthy. Be sure to get 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Calcium cannot be absorbed without vitamin D which most of the population is deficient in. Consider taking a supplement. Regular exercise will also slow down bone loss.

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