Menopause is a natural and expected hormonal shift that marks the end of the childbearing age with the cessation of the menstrual cycle. Nearly all women go through this change at some point in their lives, with the vast majority of women experiencing it between the ages of 40 and 60. Menopause can happen earlier, however, as the result of medical interventions. Menopause is considered official when a woman misses 12 menstrual cycles in a row.
What are Common Menopause Symptoms?
Irregular periods and hot flashes are the menopause symptoms that are the most well-known, but the symptoms don't end there. Women going through menopause often also experience vaginal dryness, night sweats, mood changes and loss of breast fullness. Sleep problems, a slowed metabolism, weight gain and thinning hair are all common menopause symptoms as well.
Any bleeding or spotting after menopause is complete is not normal. Consult with your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms, especially if you thought you were done having menstrual cycles.
What Causes Menopause?
When menopause occurs naturally, it happens as a result of the natural decline in reproductive hormones that occurs as women age. Menopause can also occur as the result of a hysterectomy, radiation or chemotherapy.
What Menopause Treatments are Available?
Common treatments for menopause are not designed to reverse the condition, but rather to alleviate any annoying, painful or inconvenient symptoms that accompany it and to make the transition easier for the women going through it. For example, the first measures doctors will generally recommend include eating a better diet, exercising, getting enough sleep, quitting smoking and wearing layers to help prevent overheating during a hot flash.
For women whose symptoms are more serious, doctors may also recommend treatments including hormone therapy, antidepressants, medications and supplements. If you think you may be going through menopause, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ask which treatment method might be right for you.