What is menopause?
When a woman permanently stops having menstrual periods, she has reached the stage of life called menopause. The transition phase before menopause is medically referred to as perimenopause. During this transition time before menopause, the supply of mature eggs in a woman's ovaries diminishes and ovulation becomes irregular. At the same time, the production of estrogen and progesterone decreases. It is the enormous drop in estrogen levels that causes most of the symptoms commonly associated with menopause.
While the average age of menopause is 51, menopause can actually occur any time from the 30s to the mid-50s or later. Women who smoke and are underweight tend to experience an earlier menopause, while women who are overweight often experience a later menopause. Generally, a woman tends to experience menopause at about the same age as her mother did.
What are the symptoms?
- Irregular periods (menopause is said to be complete when menstrual periods have ceased for one continuous year)
- Hot flashes (brief, periodic increases in body temperature)
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during intercourse
- Loss of bladder control
- Intermittent dizziness
- Cardiac palpitations
- Increase in facial hair
- Thinning of hair on the scalp
What treatment options are available?
- Hormone Therapy (HT) involves administrating a combination of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause and menopause. HT is most commonly prescribed in pill form. However, estrogen can also be administered by using transdermal skin patches and vaginal creams.
- Estrogen Therapy (ET) involves administrating estrogen alone, which is no longer being produced by the body. ET is often prescribed for women who have had a hysterectomy. Estrogen is prescribed in the following forms: pills, transdermal skin patches (where the estrogen is absorbed through the skin) and vaginal creams.