What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural phenomenon where a woman ceases to have her periods. It is defined as the absence of menstruation for 12 months. It is preceded by perimenopause where some of the symptoms of menopause show up.
It marks the end of a woman’s fertility cycle. The average age at which a woman attains menopause in India is 51 years. Though some women go through menopause as early as 44.
What are the causes of Menopause?
A reduction in the hormones called estrogen and progesterone triggers the onset of menopause. Estrogen regulates menstruation, and progesterone is involved with preparing the body for pregnancy. With age, these hormones cease to be formed by the body. The reduction is gradual and is marked by perimenopause. Slowly, the ovaries completely stop producing eggs, causing menopause.
What are the symptoms of Menopause?
The symptoms of menopause appear even before a woman has hit complete menopause:
- Changes in the menstrual cycle and irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Disturbed sleep
- Mood swings
- Breast shrinkage
- Urinary problems
- Hair thinning
- Joint pain
- Reduced sex drive
How is Menopause diagnosed?
A doctor may be able to diagnose menopause by a woman’s age, her menstrual pattern in the last one year and through physical signs and symptoms. If you have irregular periods after 50, then you may still be in a perimenopause phase.
How are the symptoms of Menopause treated?
It is important to understand that menopause is a natural phenomenon and does not need any treatment. Some women may seek treatment only for the symptoms, especially if they start affecting the quality of their lives.
Here are a few options:
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): You can keep the symptoms of menopause away by hormone replacement therapy. It replaces the estrogen and progesterone in your body through a simple patch on the skin and oral medication given by the doctor. HRT is highly effective in treating symptoms of menopause.
- Medicines: Serotonin based medicines may be given to combat hot flashes. For vaginal dryness, vaginal estrogen in the form or cream or gel may be suggested. It is best to seek advice of your doctor in treating your symptoms.
What are the complications of Menopause?
Menopause can lead to a few complications:
- Osteoporosis: Women start losing bone density in the first few years of menopause. This can lead to osteoporosis.
- Breast cancer: The risks of breast cancer increase with menopause. Exercise and regular scanning can help you reduce the risk.
- Urinary incontinence: Menopause causes the tissues of the vagina and urethra to lose their elasticity, resulting in frequent, sudden, and overwhelming urges to urinate.
- Cardiovascular diseases: Drop in estrogen levels increases the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.
What are the lifestyle changes needed for Menopause?
It is possible to manage the symptoms on your own with a few changes:
- Exercise: Kegel exercises are the best way to treat urinary incontinence. As for weight gain and mood swings after menopause, regular outdoor exercises can help you manage these changes. Yoga has also proven beneficial in reducing stress that can come with the symptoms. Exercising can reduce your cancer and cardiovascular disease risk significantly, along with protecting your bone density.
- Eat healthy: Women need to take care of their diet and eat nutritious food. Include omega-3, healthy fats like nuts and seeds, fiber, fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat enough protein to maintain muscle mass in your body. Include calcium and vitamin D supplements after talking to your gynecologist.
- Stay sexually active: Stay sexually active to reduce vaginal dryness.
- Other changes: Wear comfortable clothing and keep the temperature in your bedroom cool. Follow a sleep routine and cut down on alcohol intake and quit smoking.
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