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What are the symptoms of menopause

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symptoms of menopause

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE

Menopause is a stage in a woman's life where the primary functions of the ovaries are permanently stopped and the woman is no longer fertile. This phase in a woman's life may begin during the mid 40s and end during the early 50s. The years leading to menopause in a woman are called peri-menopause while the years after menopause are called post menopause.

There are many physical and emotional changes that occur in a woman during this stage and while these symptoms stop after menopause, some women continue to have these symptoms even during the post menopausal stage.

SYMPTOMS:

Hot flushes.

This is one of the most commonly faced symptoms, while not all women are subjected to hot flushes most women experience this condition. This is characterised by a feeling of extreme warmth that envelops the body, especially the face and the upper body.

Hot flushes, also known as hot flashes, are less evident among women who show a gradual reduction in the hormone oestrogen during menopause. This symptom may also be associated with reddening of the cheeks.

The intensity of hot flushes ranges from being mild to extreme hot flushes, with a feeling of being engulfed in flames. The intense heat generated might also lead to sweating, which is more evident at night, and is hence referred to as night sweats. The severity of night sweats too varies from one individual to another, with severe night sweating resulting in disruption of sleep. Women with severe night sweating may tend to be more irritable during the day and should make their sleep environment conducive to their condition by ensuring that their room is sufficiently cool at night.

 

Dry vagina

Menopause leads to hormonal imbalance which can cause vaginal dryness. The vagina becomes thinner and will not feel supple or as moistened as it was earlier and instead feel dry and itchy. This is one of the major reasons for a drop in sexual desire among women undergoing menopause. Though the lack in sexual desire is not permanent, most women take this to be a very difficult symptom to adjust to and speaking to one's partner about it will aid in helping the couple adjust to the phase.

Vaginal dryness may also be caused due to the consumption of certain prescription drugs for menopause or due to depression.

Menopausal women also are increasingly prone to urinary tract infection (UTI) due to lower oestrogen levels. Research suggests that low oestrogen induced urinary tract infections can be treated using oestrogen supplements to prevent recurrent UTI among post menopausal women.

Mood shifts.

Women undergoing menopause may experience a high one moment and soon after feel very low. There are two vital reasons behind the intense mood shifts; one is the hormonal imbalance while the other is the extreme fatigue faced by the woman. Treating this hormonal imbalance will improve the woman's mood and make this transition phase pleasant.

Difficulty in sleeping at night.

Though women undergoing menopause are increasingly prone to fatigue, they find it difficult to sleep at night. Tossing and turning in bed becomes the norm, with most women complaining about staying awake for a considerable amount of time every night.

Earlier, it was believed that night sweats were the reason behind the difficulty in sleeping, however, now it is evident that women experience an inability to sleep continuously during menopause irrespective of whether they suffer from night sweats.

Hair loss.

Women undergoing menopause face a lot of hair loss, which can be distressing for women as they witness the receding hairline or thinning locks. Hair tends to become brittle and dry, breaking while brushing or while in the shower.

The degree of hair loss varies from individual to individual, with some women facing greater hair loss than others. Proper treatment and care should control this weight loss to a large extent, however, the loss in oestrogen levels is the reason behind the reduction in hair vitality.

Weight gain especially around the waist.

weight

 

The hormonal changes that occur during menopause reduce a woman's metabolic rate and when such women continue to eat the same quantities of food like earlier, it results in weight gain. There is also change in weight distribution, with additional weight concentrating around the abdominal region.

Women undergoing this phase should consume fewer calories or should engage in a healthy workout that compensates for the lower metabolic rate.

Changes in nail health.

Nail health is affected due to lower oestrogen levels in women undergoing menopause. The nails become brittle and break easily, resulting in poor nail health. The nail bed is also prone to infection and the nails look concave or have a spoon like appearance.

The changes that occur due to lower oestrogen levels lead to a dehydration of skin, hair and nails which necessitates increased use of moisturizers to keep skin hydrated.

Irregular menstrual cycles.

The hormonal changes associated with menopause results in delayed, absence or early periods. This may begin a few years before menopause, sometimes as early as the mid 40s and may last till menopause.

During this time, bleeding may be heavy or very little, with a person to person variation. Spotting or bleeding that lasts only for a few hours have also been witnessed. These changes in the frequency of periods are caused due to lower levels of oestrogen and progesterone.

Emotional changes during menopause.

Women undergoing menopause experience a lot of emotional changes. These changes are due to the changing hormone levels in the body, though they may be accelerated by any environmental situations that may further trigger them.

Some women exhibit varying degrees of depression, lasting for a few days to a few months. Feeling sad after a bereavement or after a trauma is normal, however if the feeling persists for many days and affects the individual's normal social behaviour, then it is termed depression. Though women have been found to be prone to depression during their 20s or 30s, menopause is another phase when depression could affect the quality of their life.

Menopausal women also tend to be very anxious due to the reduction in oestrogen levels which in turn results in lower levels of mood regulators like dopamine and serotonin. An anxious person tends to be edgy, with physiological manifestations like increased palpitations, increased heart beat and shortness of breath. Menopausal women should actively try to stay calm to overcome this situation. Some women experience intense panic attacks that can feel traumatic for the woman undergoing it and when such episodes occur too often, it is important to seek medical help.

 

irritability

irritability

 

Irritability is another common emotional change witnessed among menopausal women and is caused both due to hormonal changes and due to other symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes. Women who experience irritability tend to lash out in anger often and exhibit a general displeasure which may affect personal relationships when allowed to persist.

Pain

Hormonal changes that occur during menopause also lead to aches and pains that can cause mild to moderate discomfort. Soreness in joints or muscles affects more than half of menopausal women as the hormone oestrogen that prevents inflammation of the joints is lowered. Join pain should be treated during the initial phase as it could get worse and lead to arthritis.

Headache

Headache

 

 

Headaches are other pain symptoms faced by women undergoing menopause. Headaches can range from being mild to severe and are witnessed when oestrogen levels drop. Some women suffer from headaches just before their menstrual period when oestrogen levels are lowered and such women are at a higher risk of experiencing headaches during menopause.

Menopause can also result in breast pain among some women, the intensity varies from one woman to another but it occurs during various stages of the reproductive life of a woman and can also include tenderness and soreness of the nipple.

Osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose their density and become thinner. Normally, as bones wear down, healthier bone is replaced, with the hormone oestrogen playing an important role in calcium absorption. When the level of this hormone drops during menopause, there is reduction in bone mass making bones brittle that tend to break easily.

There will be increased susceptibility towards osteoporosis from peri-menopausal stage, increasing the risk for fractures. Women undergoing menopause should look after bone health to prevent osteoporosis.  Recent research has found that exercise improves the prognosis of osteoporosis even among post menopausal woman, encouraging women to lead an active life.

Though menopause usually occurs only after 45 years of age, some women experience menopause even before 40 years of age. Such premature menopause may be caused due to surgical removal of ovaries like in oopherectomy, where the ovaries are removed completely leading to menopause or it may be caused due to genetic factors. The emotional changes during premature menopause are increased considerably when compared with menopause that occurs around 50 years of age.