Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated in 12 consecutive months 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.
Menopause is caused by decreased production of reproductive hormones in ovaries (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone). This causes the loss of active follicles. Ovarian follicles are the structures that are responsible for menstruation and fertility. Estrogen deficiency affects many parts of the body, including the vagina, uterus, brain, and skeleton. Falling levels of estrogen contribute to a brittle bone structure and sometimes an increased risk of fractures.
Early menopause occurs in unusual cases before the age of 40; this may be caused by smoking, low body weight or surgical procedures such as ovariectomy. Heredity also plays a role. A physically active lifestyle can increase the likelihood of menopause coming later.
Menopause usually starts with changes in the menstrual cycle. You may bleed more or less than before and get bleeding at shorter or longer intervals.
In addition to irregular menstruation, it is typical to get so-called hot flashes – suddenly feeling hot and start sweating. Many people also suffer from abdominal pain. Dry mucous membranes, itching, pain during intercourse and a need to urinate are often called atrophic vaginitis. Menopause often causes you to feel more vulnerable mentally – maybe you become more easily irritated or close to crying.
Common complaints include:
- Mood swings
- Dry mucous membranes in the vagina
- Less full breasts
- Sleeping problems
- Urinary incontinence
- Weight gain
- Reduced sex drive
Menopausal disorders vary from person to person, so it is important to pay attention to symptoms that may have a completely different explanation. Sometimes, for example, they may be a sign of depression, fibromyalgia or thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism.
Prevention and protection
Being physically active can alleviate many of the problems associated with menopause – from swelling and sweating to depression and sleep problems. These changes are completely natural, but can be difficult to go through. Here’s how to relieve your symptoms:
- you can treat atrophic vaginitis with non-prescription drugs
- stay physically active – exercise relieves many menopausal disorders and decreases the risk of osteoporosis
- sleep in a cool room – then sleep quality usually improves and you get less trouble with sweating and hot flashes
- try relaxation exercises – studies show that yoga, acupuncture and mindfulness can have a positive effect
- accept your feelings – bear in mind that hormone changes cause major changes in the body and can make you more sensitive than before
Seek help if you feel bad – if self-care doesn’t help, then contacting a doctor or psychologist can alleviate your problems.
Try to stop smoking – smoking affects your body negatively, strengthens your menopausal symptoms and increases the risk of osteoporosis.
Since menopausal disorders vary from person to person, treatment also varies. Some need no help at all, while others have major problems that can be relieved in different ways. Problems with dry mucous membranes of the vagina can be treated locally with hormones. If you are also bothered by hot flashes and sweating, you may receive hormone therapy that affects the entire body. Estrogen in patches or tablets, usually in combination with progesterone in the form of synthetic progestin, is the most common medication. This therapy is called hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It usually lasts 5-10 years, but the treatment time can vary.
If your menstruation stopped age 45 or younger, menopause is usually treated with hormones, to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. If you are treated with hormones, you should visit your doctor every two years for a blood pressure measurement and mammography – and sometimes your doctor may adjust your treatment accordingly. If menopause mainly affects your mental state, there is other help available. Talk-therapy and medicines for sleep problems and depression can relieve your symptoms.
When to consult a doctor
Seek care if you have menopausal disorders that affect your life – whether physical or mental.
If you are 40 or younger and your period has stopped, you should contact a gynecologist as you may need hormone replacement therapy.
How APPOTEK can help
You can contact us at APPOTEK for help with menopause. A doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms during the care meeting. You may be then prescribed treatment or referred for further treatment. In the case of menopausal disorders, we can also offer continuous follow-up and visits to psychologist and physician.