Menopause

General Illness Information

Medical Term: Menopause

Common Name: Menopause

Description: Menopause is final cessation of menstruation either as a normal part of aging, or surgical removal of both ovaries. This may occur as early as 40 years of age or as late as 55 years of age. It usually spans 1-3 years period, during which a woman adjusts to a diminishing and then absent menstrual flow. (Peri-menopausal Phase).  Average age of menopause in Western society is 51 years. Menopause occurring before age 40 is termed Premature Menopause.

Causes:

  • With advancing age a normal decline in ovarian function occurs, resulting in decreased levels of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
  • Surgical removal of both ovaries.

Prevention: Menopause cannot be avoided, but its effects may be controlled or moderated.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Menstrual irregularity ultimately leading to cessation of menses. Usually the menstrual flow diminishes in amount, cycles become longer with missed periods or presents with episodes of spotting. If there is no bleeding for 1 year then menopause has occurred.
  • Any bleeding after this time warrants investigation.
  • Peri-menopausal women may present with irregular heavy menses because of anovulatory cycles (i.e.. no ovulation).
  • Hot flashes or flushes (sensations of heat spreading from the waist or chest toward the neck, face and upper arms).
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Vaginal itching, burning, discomfort during intercourse, beginning a few years after menopause.
  • Bloating in the upper abdomen.
  • Bladder irritability.
  • Breast tenderness.
  • Emotional changes (associated with lower hormone levels and conflicting feelings about aging and loss of fertility).
  • Mood changes.
  • Pronounced tension and anxiety
  • Sleeping difficulty.
  • Depression and fatigue.

Risk Factors

  • Menopause is a natural part of the aging process for women.
  • Smoking is a risk factor for premature menopause.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Laboratory blood studies will show elevated levels of hormones, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone).  Pap smear – vaginal cells will show low estrogen effect.

General Measures:

  • Continue to use birth-control measures until 12 months after your last menstrual period.
  • Reduce stress in your life as much as possible.
  • If you take estrogen-replacement therapy, have a Pap smear annually or as recommended by your doctor.
  • Lifestyle changes may be brought about by menopause. Keep active and enjoy life.

Medications:

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) or may be referred to as HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

Because hormone treatment has benefits as well as risks, learn all you can about replacement therapy before deciding on treatment.  HRT helps prevent osteoporosis and coronary heart disease, as well as bring relief to symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, vaginal dryness).

Recent studies have shown that a combination of Evening Primrose Oil(1gm twice a day) and Vitamin E (400 IU a day) is efficacious in relieving the symptoms of menopause, such as flushing spells, irritability and the like.

Activity:

No restrictions. Active exercise is beneficial. Weight-bearing activities (such as walking) and exercises to strengthen arms and upper body helps maintain bone mass.

Diet:

No special diet. Increase calcium intake.

Possible Complications:

  • Increased irritability and susceptibility to urinary tract infections
  • Decreased skin elasticity and vaginal moisture.
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis after menopause.
  • Changes in feelings of self-worth.

Prognosis

The prognosis is excellent.

Other

Menopause is a normal process, not an illness.

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