The menopausal woman is the leading expert on her own body, having lived in it her whole life. She is also quite familiar by now with hormonal changes in her body, having already experienced menstruation and perhaps pregnancy. For these reasons, a woman usually knows when a new experience is related to menopause. While many women have this intuition, it is natural to have many questions about menopause symptoms when they develop.
Read on to discover the answers to the most frequently asked questions about menopause symptoms.
Q: What Are the Menopause Symptoms?
A: Menopause symptoms are changes in feelings, sensations, and physical function during the span of time from perimenopause to postmenopause.
While each woman experiences a unique combination of menopause symptoms, there are 34 menopause symptoms most common during this transition.
The most common of these menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats,irregular periods, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness.
Q: How Common Are Menopausal Symptoms?
A: Menopause symptoms are extremely common. In fact, only 10 percent of women will experience the permanent cessation of menses without first experiencing menopause symptoms.
Q: When Do Menopause Symptoms Begin?
A: Women who go through natural menopause typically begin to experience menopause symptoms during perimenopause, or the years leading up to the end of menses. This time ranges from a woman's mid 40s to mid 50s, with the average age of menopause in the early 50s.
Early or premature menopause can occur before a woman reaches age 40, due to natural or induced menopause. Late menopause can also occur after the age of 55. Menopause symptoms can begin anywhere around these times.
Q: How Long Do Menopause Symptoms Last?
Though the answer to this question depends on the individual women, most menopausal women experience symptoms for just over three years. That said; some women experience menopause symptoms for only a few months, while others experience them for over six years.
Q: What Causes Menopause Symptoms?
A: The primary cause of all menopause symptoms is hormonal imbalance during the menopausal transition. This underlying hormonal fluctuation sets of myriad secondary reactions affecting the cardiovascular, nervous, genitourinary, and other bodily systems. These are considered the secondary causes of menopause symptoms.
Menopause symptoms can be aggravated by a number of lifestyle and behavioral triggers, such as stress and poor diet. In rare cases, menopause symptoms may indicate a more serious condition.
Q: What Causes Premature Menopause?
A: Premature menopause, defined as the permanent end of menses by age 40, can be natural or provoked by medical or surgical procedures. While the exact cause of early menopause is not always known, the following are factors that increase one's risk of early menopause:Risk factors for early menopause:
Risk factors for early menopause:
- History of heart disease
- Medical treatment for depression
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Previous pelvic surgery
- Epilepsy treatment
- Autoimmune disease
- Chemotherapy or radiation (see below)
NO clear correlation has been found between early menopause and:
- Age of first period
- Use of birth control pills
Medical or surgical procedures, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and hysterectomy, can also cause premature menopause. Read on to learn more about the menopause symptoms in early menopause.
Q: What Are Premature Menopause Symptoms?
A: The menopause symptoms that occur in premature menopause depend on whether the menopause is spontaneous (i.e. natural) or caused by medical or surgical procedures. In the first case, women who go through natural early menopause will likely experience symptoms just as any woman going through perimenopause would. These early menopause symptoms will likely include irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and more.
Women who go through premature menopause due to medical intervention may experience symptoms differently. Women with induced menopause miss the transitional months or years of perimenopause, moving directly into an abrupt change in hormone levels. Though not always the case, this often causes women to experience more severe menopause symptoms, such as loss of libido, hot flashes, night sweats, breast tenderness, and more.
Premature menopause also increases the risk of other diseases, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Q: Does the Risk of Other Medical Conditions Increase during Menopause?
The hormonal changes that occur with menopause, coupled with aging, can increase the risk of certain medical conditions. The natural aging process and the effects of permanently diminished levels of estrogen can increase a woman's risk for heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, endometrial cancer, and thyroid problems. All of these conditions can produce symptoms similar to menopause symptoms. Women are encouraged to speak with their health care professional about health risks in the golden years.
Q: When Should a Doctor Be Consulted Regarding Menopause Symptoms?
A: Any woman who has questions or concerns about their menopause symptoms is wise to speak with her doctor. That said, it is not necessary to seek medical attention because of the symptoms of menopause. Menopause is a natural process that many women find bothersome, but not seriously problematic. Women for whom menopause symptoms impede on daily functioning or quality of life may wish to speak with a doctor. Moreover, women with unexplained symptoms or other medical conditions may want to seek medical attention.
Q: What Are the Treatments for Menopause Symptoms?
A: Fortunately, there are several proactive steps a woman can take to manage menopause symptoms safely and effectively. Lifestyle changes can greatly help to relieve symptoms, while some natural therapies can get to the root problem of hormonal imbalance without the risks associated with more invasive medical options. While most doctors recommend beginning with the least invasive approaches, there will also be women for whom medical drugs or surgery are the best option. Most women, however, find relief with a combination of self-care and alternative treatments.