Menopause is a dreaded word for many women. Some, with heavy cycles actually look forward to it—so I suppose not everyone dreads it. There is so much conflicting information out there (bioidentical hormones, heart disease, breast cancer) it can be a scary world when women enter the menopausal phase—that is an article for another day. In this blog post I’m only going to discuss what to expect from the signs and symptoms of menopause.
Your cycles will start to get irregular.
They may space further apart, but they may temporarily get closer together. This can become very annoying, yes. The definition of true menopause is a year without a cycle. In general, we consider it to be abnormal if you have bleeding after this point recommend you discuss this with your doctor.
You may experience hot flashes
Hot flashes are generally described as starting from the neck up. The sufferer usually appears very hot and red in the face. When hot flashes occur at nighttime they are called night sweats. Of course this will cause sleep disturbances, which is also a symptom of menopause. Sleep disturbances can occur without the person being aware of hot flashes.
One of the most common complaints surrounding menopause is vaginal dryness. The lack of estrogen causes the vagina to feel less lubricated. Even using a lubricant doesn’t always make up for the lack of estrogen. This can be quite distressing to patients.
Often, patients also complain of difficulty concentrating. They have trouble staying focused on tasks. Sometimes this may be accompanied by a mild depression.
In the past to treat all of these symptoms we simply placed patients on hormone replacement therapy. When the Women’s Health Initiative study published an associated slight increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer risk, we hesitated in that approach. Some patients suffer terribly with menopausal symptoms and they still benefit from a short course of hormones. Others may try approaches like anti-depressants, which have been shown to decrease hot flashes. For vaginal dryness there are very small doses of vaginal estrogen. There is also a non-estrogen compound that can be taken orally.
Women have numerous resources available to them in order to fully enjoy this phase of life, as they would any other. Discuss with your physician, for your best options today.