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Many women assume that, once they have crossed the threshold of 12 months without periods, they won't feel more of the many bodily discomforts the menopause process usually brings.
In most cases, women gradually stop feeling symptoms. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. During postmenopause, hormone levels may continue to fluctuate, bringing with them symptoms women are already familiar with and new symptoms that fewer women experience during this stage.
In this section, women can find a list of common and uncommon symptoms associated with postmenopause, as well as common disease risks related to postmenopause.
Symptoms of Postmenopause
During the years leading up to postmenopause, many women experience uncomfortable common symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, libido loss, and vaginal dryness. Those same women may experience a variety of emotional and mental changes as well. These symptoms usually ease gradually once a woman becomes postmenopausal.
In fact, many women report that once they became postmenopausal, they had renewed energy and overall feeling of well-being.
On the other side, some women also report feeling a few lingering symptoms that may last for as long as 10 years after menopause. Below is a list of common and less common postmenopause symptoms.
Most postmenopausal women report experiencing the following symptoms:
Vaginal dryness and itching
Once a woman's body starts producing less estrogen, a woman's vaginal walls may actually thin and shrink in size (atrophy) due to a lack of estrogen. This dryness can also cause uncomfortable itching, soreness, and painful intercourse. Many women ease this symptom with lubrication or vaginal estrogen rings.
Vaginal discharge during postmenopause is often an indication of atrophying vagina that can also cause vaginal dryness and itching. Many women report that this discharge is thin and may be tinted with hint of blood. Usually, this is not a worrisome symptom. If the blood flow becomes heavy or frequent, however, there may be a more serious medical condition at play and woman should seek medical attention.
This is one of the most common and most noticeable postmenopausal symptoms. Many women are distressed at this seemingly inexplicable weight gain, putting on 10 or 20 pounds when they haven't changed their regular diets. Hormone changes are usually the primary culprit of postmenopausal weight gain since the body, in response to depleting estrogen levels, retains more fat cells in an effort to naturally boost estrogen levels. Sometimes, psychological factors, such as depression and stress, can contribute to postmenopausal weight gain as well.
Some experts estimate that as many as 40% of postmenopausal women suffer from stress incontinence, that is a loss of bladder control that accompanies physical activity, such as a coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Estrogen is responsible to help maintain the strength of a woman's bladder muscles, so when estrogen levels dwindle, stress incontinence can become more likely. Women can combat stress incontinence by practicing Kegel exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that prevent the bladder from leaking.
Urinary tract infections
Thanks to the decrease of estrogen levels, postmenopausal women are at an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs). Estrogen is essential to maintain the acidity of vaginal fluid, and with its absence, a woman's vagina can become a breeding ground for bacteria that can travel to the urethra and cause a UTI. Usually, UTIs are not serious and can be treated easily with antibiotics.
Hormonal changes can also impact a woman's sleep schedule, causing her to have trouble falling and staying asleep. Doctors recommend the time-tested methods of chamomile tea or warm milk to help prepare the body to sleep.
Although the following symptoms are reported less frequently, they may still appear during a woman's postmenopause years.
Heavy or severe vaginal bleeding is rare after menopause and could be an indication that something more serious is occurring. Bleeding in postmenopause years could be a sign of certain types of cancer and should always be evaluated by a doctor. It has also been associated with certain menopause treatments, like hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
While these may have seemed commonplace before, most menopausal women experience a noticeable drop in the frequency and number of hot flashes as soon as they reach postmenopause. Although they may occur from time to time in the following years, hot flashes often don't manifest themselves quite as strongly in postmenopausal women.
When women reach postmenopause, they are probably used to experience upsetting symptoms, which luckily seem to fade away with time. However, with postmenopause, women should pay attention to some risks to their health, which are conditions that could lead to serious diseases. Postmenopausal women should be aware of the following postmenopausal risks.
Common Disease Risks
In conjunction to the symptoms mentioned above, postmenopausal women should be careful with the new disease risks they face now that they are postmenopausal.
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones and leads to an increased risk of debilitating fractures. All postmenopausal women are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis. The lack of estrogen in their bodies causes the rate of bone restoration to be outpaced by bone loss.
High blood pressure
Blood pressure usually increases in women after menopause, usually leading to chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension. The hormonal changes a woman has been experiencing can leave her sensitive to salt and cause weight gain (see above), two factors that contribute to high blood pressure.
Women who are diagnosed with high blood pressure are at a much higher risk of developing deadly heart disease and should stick to heart-healthy foods like whole grains and vegetables, limit sodium intake, and refrain from smoking.
After reading this section, women might have realized that they are actually experiencing some of the symptoms of postmenopause. Fortunately for them, there are ways to find relief. To learn about the best approach to alleviate postmenopause symptoms, go to the postmenopause treatments section.
Many women look forward to seeing the back of menopausal symptoms; however, some of these symptoms continue into postmenopause. Find information in this article about which menopausal symptoms are prevalent during postmenopause, including hot flashes, irregular periods and vaginal dryness, the hormonal reasons for these, and how to get rid of these symptoms for good.
Making healthy lifestyle changes during postmenopause will greatly reduce a woman's risk of heart disease and cancer. This article presents three ways to keep mind and body healthy to avoid postmenopausal complications, including tips like keeping hydrated, to combat vaginal dryness; keeping active, to avoid weight gain; and eating nutritious foods, to prevent osteoporosis.