Is this menopause?
Many questions spring from this single query. Countless questions pop into mind as women reach their late 40s or early 50s. Along with the wonderment are the undesirable experiences of unfamiliar signs and symptoms.
Think of menopause as an unknown destination. You cannot go clueless and unprepared. With that, we’ll provide you with the essential information you’ll need to know before you traverse the inevitable menopause lane. Uncover the answers to all of your menopause-related queries below.
What is menopause?
Typically, women undergo hormonal changes as they reach old age or senescence. Menopause is a sudden lasting stop in the ovarian function which leads to a noticeable decline in the production of estrogen and progesterone.
It is identified as the day where a woman did not have a menstrual period for a 12-month period. The inactivity of a woman’s ovaries marks the end of a woman’s reproductive and fertile years.
What are the factors that can affect menopause?
Besides the natural decline of a woman’s sexual reproductive hormones, menopause can also result from:
There are two types of hysterectomy – partial and total. A partial hysterectomy is a surgical procedure where a woman’s womb or uterus is removed while her ovaries are left unharmed. However, during a total hysterectomy, the fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed.
After the surgical removal of the ovaries in a total hysterectomy procedure, a sudden decline in the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone production in a female’s body occurs. These lead to an immediate and intense menopause.
• Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, provide potential harm to the ovaries. During these kinds of therapies, women usually undergo a temporary menopause.
Menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, may start during the treatment and may continue to develop in the months after.
Like cancer therapies, cigarette smoking also damages the ovaries. In fact, smoking cigarettes sabotages female hormone imbalance. It speeds up the onset of menopause in women.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found out that smokers experienced menopause years earlier than their non-smoking fellows.
• Hormone disruption
Extreme or frequent exposure to environmental toxins and certain chemicals interfere with the endocrine system. Hormone or endocrine disruptors disrupt the healthy and normal production of hormones. They act like the body’s naturally occurring hormones and take the place of the cell’s normal hormones. This hormone disruption leads to an overproduction of certain hormones and hormone imbalance.
Examples of hormone disruptors are usually found in commonly used products. These include BPAs, dioxins in feminine napkins, atrazine, phthalates in plastic products, lead, arsenic, PFCs, organophosphate pesticides, and glycol ethers.
• Premature ovarian failure
About 1% of the entire women population suffers from premature ovarian failure or the occurrence of menopause before reaching age 40. It is a condition where a woman’s ovaries fail to sustain the normal production of female reproductive hormones.
Experts cannot fully explain why premature ovarian failure happens. However, it can normally be associated with genetic factors and autoimmune diseases.
The What, When, Why and How of Menopause
Menopausal signs and symptoms typically experienced by women may be classified into two categories and may include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Low energy levels
- Weight gain
- Decreased sex drive
- Decreased frequency and intensity of orgasms
- Pain with intercourse
- Hair loss and hair thinning
- Dry and thinning skin
- Decreased skin elasticity
- Formication or uneasy skin sensations
- Breast swelling or shrinking
- Rapid heart beat
- Muscle fatigue and pain
- Low energy levels
- Crying spells
- Sense of loss due to infertility
- Memory loss
- Poor concentration
- Mood swings
- Increased stress
- Inability to manage stress
- Sleep disturbances
What are the medical complications of menopause?
Apart from the countless signs and symptoms of menopause, increased risk of medical complications in women occurs during menopause, which includes:
• Cardiovascular diseases
Increased risks of cardiovascular and heart diseases happen when a woman’s estrogen levels undergo a significant decline. Estrogen protects the heart and the blood vessels from certain illnesses. Menopause also makes women more susceptible to high cholesterol and high blood pressure levels.
During menopause, a woman loses bone density at a quick rate making her bones weak and brittle. This loss of bone density leads to an increased possibility of bone fractures, especially of the hips, spine, and wrists.
• Urinary problems
Menopause causes the urethra to lose its elasticity leading to urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and other problems. A woman may experience either consistent strong urges to urinate or involuntary loss of urine, specifically during laughing, coughing, and lifting weights.
• Sexual function failure
In the course of menopause, a woman’s vagina loses its moisture and elasticity. This vaginal dryness leads to slight bleeding, discomfort and pain during intercourse. Because of this, a woman tends to lose interest in sex and reduce her appetite for sexual activities.
• Weight gain
Menopausal women tend to pack on extra weight as their metabolism slows down. During menopause, a woman’s body becomes less capable of burning fat and more capable of storing fat, especially in the abdomen, thighs, hips, and butt.
When does menopause start?
In the United States, menopause typically happens between the ages of 45 to 55, with the average age of 51. However, menopause may occur prematurely during the early 40s, 30s, or as late as the 60s.
Female hormone imbalance with menopause-like symptoms can be experienced as early as age 30 to 35. These early symptoms mark the first transition towards menopause.
The first transition in the menopausal period is known as perimenopause, sometimes called as premenopause or early menopause.
During perimenopause, a gradual but unsteady decline in the women’s hormone levels happens, specifically with estrogen and progesterone.
When a woman’s menstrual cycle becomes irregular, a woman is officially considered to be perimenopausal. A perimenopausal women’s period may:
o Begin to occur more or less frequently
o Be shorter or longer
o Have more or less bleeding than normal
o Be accompanied by menopausal symptoms
Menopause naturally occurs when a woman reaches her golden age. It is the next menopausal transition after perimenopause. It is identified as the day where a woman did not have a menstrual period for 12 months. The inactivity of a woman’s ovaries marks the end of a woman’s reproductive and fertile years.
When a woman stops experiencing menstrual bleeding or spotting for a year, she will experience postmenopause in a year’s time.
This last transition comes right after menopause and is the last menopausal transition. It officially begins a year after a woman has experienced amenorrhea or 12 consecutive months without menstruation.
Postmenopause usually occurs around age 50, but certain factors can lead to an earlier postmenopause experience. Once a woman becomes postmenopausal, she will stay menopausal for the rest of her life.
How can menopause and its symptoms be handled or managed?
Menopause is an inevitable stage in every woman’s life. However, with proper care and management, its unpleasant signs and symptoms can be treated or at least improved. Here are some practical tips you can try to find relief:
• For hot flashes
Avoid too much stress, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, smoking, and tight clothing as they trigger and worsen hot flashes. Stay cool and maintain an active lifestyle for relief.
• For vaginal dryness and discomfort
To alleviate vaginal dryness and discomfort, vaginal lubricants may be used to provide temporary relief. On the other hand, Kegel or pelvic floor muscle exercises can restore overall vaginal health.
• For sleeping difficulties
Make sure to keep your bedroom dark, cool, and conducive to a good night’s sleep. Striding away from too much caffeine and alcohol may also help promote better slumber.
However, for more severe menopausal signs and symptoms, expert and medical treatments may be considered. These include:
• Hormone Replacement Therapy
In general, hormone replacement therapy or HRT is a specialized field of medicine used to treat hormone imbalances and deficiencies to maintain the optimal physiological hormone levels.
While you age, you may start noticing different changes in your body. With these changes come diseases and lost opportunities for the things you used to enjoy in your younger years.
However, there’s hormone replacement therapy that could restore your body from the different symptoms brought about by aging, specifically menopause and andropause. There are two types of hormone replacement therapy:
o Conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy
Conventional or Synthetic hormone replacement therapy uses animal-derived and synthetic versions of hormones. Premarin derived from a horse’s urine is an example of this kind of hormone replacement.
The hormones used in conventional or synthetic hormone replacement therapy offers adverse effects as the hormones used are not identical to the ones the body naturally produces.
o Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Bioidentical or natural hormone replacement therapy is more recommended because of its efficacy and safety. It makes use of natural bioidentical hormones to achieve and maintain hormone balance no matter what your age is.
These natural hormones are derived from natural plant sources such as soybeans and wild yams which exactly have the same molecular and chemical structure of the hormones naturally produced in the human body.
Here are the most common interventions used by women for the relief of their menopause-related symptoms:
o Estrogen Therapy
The administration of estrogen is constantly the most efficient treatment for vasomotor symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes. Apart from that, it also benefits sleep, mood, anxiety, female sexual function, and a woman’s overall quality of life.
o Testosterone Therapy
Women also need a healthy balance of testosterone to function optimally. It has the same benefits as that of estrogen therapy. However, optimal levels of testosterone and estrogen, when combined, improve sexual function better than estrogen replacement alone. But, high levels of testosterone can lead to acne in women.
o Progesterone Therapy
Progesterone manages and balances the estrogen levels to avoid unpleasant signs and symptoms, and serious health risks. This hormone plays an essential role in the production of other essential hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, and DHEA.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs have shown efficiency in managing hot flashes in a majority of women. However, it may be linked with adverse effects such as reduced libido.
How can you determine whether you’re qualified for hormone treatments?
To reap more benefits than adverse effects, you may follow these three simple measures to determine whether you are in need of hormone replacement therapy or not:
• Observe your body.
Be observant of the different changes in your body, physically, emotionally, and socially, during menopause. Observe and weigh in the severity of your experienced menopausal signs and symptoms. Write down all these symptoms and consult a hormone specialist regarding your list.
• Consult a hormone expert.
Hormone experts or endocrinologists are the best specialists to turn to regarding all issues related to hormones. They have undergone a long time of studying and training to provide the best possible diagnosis and medications for conditions related to hormones, including menopause.
• Take a hormone balance test.
Your hormone expert may prescribe a hormone balance test after your initial consultation. With this laboratory testing, imbalances in your hormone levels during menopause can be checked, and other potential health risks may be determined and thus, prevented.
Hormone laboratory testing can be performed on blood, saliva, or urine tests.
It is a given fact that menopause is an inevitable part of a woman’s life. Along with menopause are the countless undesirable signs and symptoms a woman dreads to experience. Menopause may be inevitable, but it sure is manageable. You cannot choose to escape menopause, but you can choose how to deal with it.
Facing menopause head on with menopausal facts and information is a step closer to winning the battle against the negative effects of menopause.
With all your menopausal questions answered and all the information you have, you can now gracefully brave the inevitable menopause ride!This article is written by Sanford Harvey for Genemedics Health Institute. Check out Genemedics website at http://www.genemedics.com/hormone-replacement-therapy-arizona/