Here’s everything you need to know about menopause
New Delhi: Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of the menstrual cycle. If a woman does not have a period for 12 consecutive cycles, she is considered to have entered menopause. Typically, women between the ages of 40 and 50 experience menopause; however, it can vary based on age, race, ethnicity, genetics, and medical conditions. Scientifically, menopause occurs when the ovaries eventually stop releasing eggs and female sex hormone levels are depleted, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
Menopause is associated with several physical and psychological manifestations that significantly affect an individual’s physical, social, and emotional well-being. A woman approaching menopause begins to experience the telltale symptoms several years before menopause, called the perimenopausal stage. Menopausal symptoms can continue into postmenopause and even last a lifetime.
Menopause indicators and diagnosis
Several health conditions and physical characteristics are typical of menopause, which can vary in onset, severity, and intensity for each woman. These symptoms signal a decrease in estrogen production and hormonal fluctuations. Menstrual irregularities such as missed periods, irregular cycles, increased or decreased duration, heavy or lighter flow, spotting, etc., are the main and most prominent indicators of menopause. The transition to menopause can be recognized by the following symptoms.
heat waves – A sudden sensation of heat spreads over the body, usually most intense on the face, neck and chest, along with profuse sweating.
Night sweats – Hot flashes that occur at night are commonly called night sweats.
Cold waves – menopausal hot flashes are chills that occur immediately or after hot flashes.
Vaginal dryness – During premenopause, the vagina becomes dry, which leads to discomfort during sex.
Urinary incontinence – Loss of bladder control, ranging from mild loss of urine after sneezing, coughing or laughing to frequent urination and even complete inability to control urination.
Insomnia – This is a sleep disorder that refers to persistent problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
Emotional changes – changes in mood and emotional stress leading to irritability, anxiety and mild depression also characterize the onset of menopause.
Physical changes – As menopause approaches, women may feel that their hair and skin become drier and thinner. Some women may gain weight, experience more fat around the waist, less muscle, and painful and stiff joints.
The stages of menopause and perimenopause can also stimulate:
Worsening of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Some people may also experience the following:
A racing heart.
Joint and muscle aches and pains.
Changes in libido (sexual desire).
Difficulty concentrating, memory lapses (often temporary).
Hair loss or thinning.
Women affected by the symptoms of a racing heart, changes in urine, headaches, or other new medical problems should make sure that there is no other cause for these symptoms.
Requisites for medical interventions
Menopause is an aspect of aging that cannot be prevented; however, its symptoms and associated conditions can be managed and reduced through various pharmacological and lifestyle measures. Mild menopausal conditions do not require medical attention and can be managed with non-therapeutic techniques; however, severe cases may need appropriate health interventions. That’s why it’s imperative to have regular health checks and frequent visits to your healthcare provider.
Periodic clinic visits facilitate preventive health care and help with various medical problems. Depending on the onset and intensity of symptoms, a menopause expert may recommend health screening tests, such as blood tests, Pap smear, ultrasound, or mammography. To prevent future complications, it is generally advisable to continue clinical appointments even after menopause. Certain health conditions during menopause and perimenopause may require immediate medical attention, which includes:
vaginal bleeding after menopause
sudden and excessive weight gain
Menopause symptoms are natural and normal; however, they can be uncomfortable for some. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, and some lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms and improve overall quality of life during this transition. Catalytic factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine dependence, stress and anxiety trigger the effects of menopause and can worsen symptoms; therefore should be avoided.
Be open with your health facilitator about health problems, menopause-related symptoms, lifestyle difficulties and inconveniences so that they can recommend appropriate measures and appropriate interventions for your concerns.
(Dr. Ameya Kanakia Kulkarni, Co-Founder and Gynecologist, Elda Health)