Menopause can be defined as the cessation of menses for 12 consecutive months due to a natural decline in the reproductive hormones between ages 40’s to 50’s. Women experience variety of symptoms due to this decline in hormones and these symptoms are collectively called perimenopausal symptoms. Perimenopause is the time period few years before and after menopause. The average age for menopause is 51, but it can occur between 48-55 years of age. A small percentage of women may have it at an earlier age. If it happens before 40 years of age then it is called premature menopause.
What is Menopause associated with?
Women who have never experienced pregnancy or are smoking can have early and severe menopause. Menopausal changes in the body could be in their families. Hot flushes, urinary incontinence and burning along with vaginal burning , dryness, breast changes (Shape and Size), bone loss (reduced bone density), increase in bad cholesterol, increase weight and increase rise of heart diseases, mood change and loss of libido also occur due to hormonal decline.
Hot flushes – the first to come:
Hot flushes could be very troublesome at times and occur in 75% of patients and is among the first to manifest. They can last between few seconds to few minutes and is associated with a feeling of sudden heat all over body with increase in heart rate and sweating. They are at times also associated with mood swings and agitation. Hot flushes start 2-3 years before menopause and can last till 2-3 years after menopause but it could continue till as late as 5-7 years after menopause in some women.
Health checkups are important:
All perimenopausal women should go for regular health checkup to reduce these symptoms and also to prevent bone loss and heart diseases. They should also check the increase in bad cholesterol levels. Thyroid hormone changes and blood sugar level change also might occur even if normal earlier. Yearly health checkups includes: Blood pressure checkup, Pelvic examination, Bone Density study (DEXA test, Densitometry), Ultrasound- Whole Abdomen, Blood Sugar, TSH and Cholesterol Levels.
Lifestyle changes: To reduce the intensity of hot flush, reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Start exercise to prevent bone thinning and prevent the weight gain.