HomeHealthHealth Conditions

What is menopause? Knowing the symptoms


1st Jan 2015 Health Conditions

What is menopause? Knowing the symptoms
Menopause is the term doctors use to describe the time in a woman’s life when ovulation (release of eggs from the ovaries) and menstruation (periods) cease and she is no longer able to bear children. It's Causes and symptoms are described below.

What is Menopause?

Menopause most often occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 (in the UK the average age is 51). But it can happen as early as the 20s or 30s or as late as the 60s. A woman commonly goes through menopause around the same age as her mother or grandmother. On average, smokers tend to experience menopause earlier. Medically, menopause is considered to have occurred only when a woman has been without periods for one year.
In the years preceding menopause, called the perimenopause, a woman’s ovaries are producing less of the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, while ovulation (the monthly release of an egg) also becomes less frequent. This hormonal fluctuation can result in a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including hot flushes and night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, sleep problems and unusually light or heavy periods. Luckily there are various methods of managing these symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Menopause?

  • Hot flushes–the most common symptom of the menopause, a feeling of extreme heat that starts in the centre of the chest and spreads, particularly to the shoulders, neck and face. 
  • Irregular periods–the menstrual cycle may lengthen or shorten, and periods may get lighter or heavier before they stop altogether. 
  • Decreased fertility–it is possible to conceive during the perimenopause, but once you have definitely passed through the menopause and it is a year since your last period, it is impossible to conceive. 
  • Insomnia–Around 1 in 4 women experience sleep disturbances, which may be worsened by night sweats
  • Mood swings–Many women complain of mood swings, forgetfulness, irritability and other emotional upsets during menopause. 
  • Changes in appearance–Women can often put on weight at this time, get dry skin, more facial hair, thinning hair and the breasts may be less full.
Menopause isn't a disease, it's a milestone. And some women don't even have symptoms. But many women do, and the discomfort can run the gamut from mildly annoying to extremely upsetting. If you're experiencing changes in your cycle–such as irregular periods or unusual flow–see your doctor to make sure the changes are related to menopause and not a medical problem. If you have urinary discomfort, see a doctor to check for bladder infections, which occur more frequently among women who have vaginal dryness. You should also tell your doctor if you miss a period, or you develop vaginal bleeding between periods, or if you just aren't feeling yourself because of your symptoms. Also have a look at the variety of ways you can reduce any discomfort.