What is Menopause and What Causes it?
Menopause happens to women when there is a reduction in their reproductive hormones. It usually occurs around 45 to 50 years old. Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life but there are symptoms caused by the decline in reproductive hormones. The symptoms can be unpleasant, uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassing, but have no fear because these symptoms usually won’t last forever and there are methods and treatments to help.
How Do I Know If I am in Menopause?
The official signal of menopause is that it has been 1 year since your last menstruation. Leading up to menopause you may start to notice irregularities in your monthly menstruation. If you are concerned about menstruation irregularities, please see your OB/GYN provider.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause?
The main sign of menopause is the discontinuation of a woman’s menstrual period for at least 1 year. Other symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, mood changes, weight gain, issues with sleep, fatigue, night sweats, hair loss, vaginal dryness, sexual issues, headaches, and joint discomfort. Every case of menopause is different and unique. Some women may have very minimal symptoms while others have severe symptoms. These symptoms can last months or years.
Does Menopause Cause Osteoporosis?
Lower amounts of the hormone estrogen are linked with osteoporosis and bone loss. Menopause is a sign that the hormones in the body are declining. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak and thin which increases the risk of fractures.
Although you cannot regain your bone mass, there are methods and medications to aid in slowing down bone loss. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking and lifting weights help prevent bone loss. Your healthcare professional may recommend increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake through diet or supplements. Avoiding alcohol, smoking, and carbonated beverages helps protect bones.
Who Can I Talk to About My Menopause?
You can talk to your primary care health professional or your gynecologist about menopause. They will be able to discuss your concerns and any treatment options that are recommended.
How Is Menopause Diagnosed?
In most cases, menopause is diagnosed through a simple conversation about signs and symptoms with your healthcare professional. Sometimes they may want to do additional testing to confirm the diagnoses. Usually, it is a simple blood test to estimate the amount of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen in the body. FSH and estrogen are both hormones that decrease if you are going through menopause. In some circumstances, your healthcare professional may order a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test because hypothyroidism can cause similar symptoms as menopause. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is underactive.
Are There Medical Treatments For Menopause?
Menopause is a natural progression of life and in most cases does not require any treatment other than symptom relief.
If a woman suffers from severe hot flashes, hormone treatment with estrogen and possibly progestin may be recommended. This should always be done under a healthcare professional’s supervision because long-term use of hormone medications can put you at risk of other medical conditions. If a woman is unable to take hormonal medications, other medications can be tried.
If suffering from vaginal dryness, estrogen may be recommended in the form of a vaginal cream, tablet, or ring. Also, over-the-counter lubricants can help with moisturizing. Vaginal dryness can cause itchiness, sexual intercourse pain, and urinary issues.
Menopause can cause changes in mood such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. Speak with your healthcare professional about these symptoms because they may recommend a low-dose antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication for relief.
Depending on your medical history and current conditions your healthcare professional may recommend a medication to prevent osteoporosis. There are different options such as tablets or injections depending on the severity of your condition.
Remember to keep up with your healthcare appointments at least yearly and have open communication with your healthcare provider.
What Can I Do to Help With Hot Flashes?
One of the most common menopause symptoms and complaints is hot flashes. These happen when you get a sudden feeling of warmth that may even cause you to sweat. If you suffer from hot flashes keep a diary of when they happen. Sometimes there may be certain triggers that cause the hot flashes such as foods, beverages, alcohol, caffeine, etc. Consider dressing in layers so that if you have a hot flash you can take off your outermost layer. If your hot flashes are severe, talk with your healthcare provider about medication options.
Will I Get Moody While I Go Through Menopause?
Every woman is different but the fluctuations in hormones may cause mood swings. Some women develop anxiety or depression while going through menopause. It is essential that you have good communication with your healthcare professional. If you are experiencing mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health conditions make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider.
There are medications that can help with these concerns that your healthcare provider can prescribe you. Some women may like to try other methods before medications such as learning relaxing techniques, getting more sleep, and exercising.
Will Menopause Cause Insomnia?
Trouble sleeping and insomnia are common with women going through menopause. This is sometimes attributed to hot flashes during sleep which wake you. Before starting any sleep medications you should try to get enough exercise, avoid napping during the day, and make sure you are not consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening. If you still have trouble sleeping after making those changes you should speak with your healthcare provider.
- Menopause is caused by a reduction in a woman’s reproductive hormones. It usually occurs around 45 to 50 years old.
- The official signal of menopause is that it has been 1 year since your last menstruation.
- Signs and symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, mood changes, weight gain, issues with sleep, fatigue, night sweats, hair loss, vaginal dryness, sexual issues, headaches, and joint discomfort.
- If you are having severe menopause symptoms make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider.
About the Author
Victoria Derlin is a nurse who started her career working in acute care and now works in primary care. She is passionate about advocating for nurses and patients. In her spare time, she rides horses, reads lots of books, bakes delicious pies, and spends time with her family. You can connect with her on instagram @nurse.vicki.rn
Dealing with the symptoms of menopause. Harvard Health. (2017, March 21). Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/dealing-with-the-symptoms-of-menopause
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, October 14). Menopause. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353401
Menopause: Frequently asked questions. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. (2019, August 20). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://uihc.org/health-topics/menopause-frequently-asked-questions