Menopause: symptoms, signs and eventual treatments
Menopause is a normal, natural event in the life of a woman, and it is defined as being the absence of menstrual periods for twelve months and it marks the end of fertility.
Menopause occurs, on average, when a woman is in her early 50s, but it can occur earlier (age 40 or younger) and is called premature menopause or later than this age, or it can be induced by surgical treatments, such as hysterectomies, like what singer/actress Patsy Kensit has recently gone through.
Before the onset of menopause, many women go through a transition period which is called perimenopause, where the ovaries start producing less hormones - estrogen and progesterone – and this transition period can last between three to five years.
Each woman will experience menopause differently, and there are a multitude of symptoms that can include: hot or cold flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations weight gain and bloating, headaches, sore joints and muscles, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, hair thinning, mood swings, irritability, difficulty concentrating and confusion , memory lapses, fatigue, sleep disorders, incontinence when laughing or sneezing, depression, anxiety and panic disorders, and later in life menopause can lead to osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones).
Since menopause isn’t a disease, it doesn’t need treatment, but some of the more severe symptoms especially if they interfere with day-to-day life, can be alleviated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT).
There are several HRT options available and can be tailored to the symptoms, such as estrogen therapy to treat some symptoms, while progestogene therapy can be used to treat hot flashes and abnormal uterine bleeding during perimenopause.
HRT is available in many forms including tablet, creams or gel, a skin patch or an implant.
However, some studies have shown that there are some risks associated with HRT therapy like an increased risk for stroke, and other types of therapies has been associated with the risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).
There are also other more natural choices available like using soy based products – that contain weak plant estrogens(phytoestrogens) and are similar to the estrogens naturally produced by the body, and sometime women find that making changes to their lifestyle (exercising regularly, reducing stress) and diet can improve some of the symptoms.