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Understanding menopause

 

 

Woman health. Understanding menopause.

 

 

 

 

What doctors officially call menopause is an event - namely, the point at which you get your last menstrual period. This permanent cessation of menstruation is usually marked by 12 consecutive months of having no periods. Most women experience menopause from 40 to 58 years of age, with a median age of 51.4 years.

In women, the ovaries produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone control a woman's periods and other processes in her body. As a woman approaches menopause, her ovaries gradually makes less and less of these hormones.

As hormone levels fall, a woman's pattern of menstrual bleeding usually becomes irregular. Many women experience light, skipped or late periods for several months to a year before their periods stop altogether. Some women may experience heavier-than-normal bleeding. It is important to realize that until menopause is complete, a woman still can become pregnant even when periods are light or missed.

For most women, menopause is a normal process of aging. If a woman has had her ovaries removed by surgery or has had damage to her ovaries for other reasons, such as radiation therapy, she may become menopausal from that process.

Some women don't have any symptoms during menopause or only have a few symptoms. Others develop disturbing and even severe, disabling symptoms. Studies of women around the world suggest that differences in lifestyle, diet and activity may play a role in the severity and type of symptoms women have during menopause. Symptoms can be noticed for several months to years before the last menstrual period and can continue for several years after.

As estrogen levels fall, the vagina's natural lubricants decrease. The lining of the vagina gradually becomes thinner and less elastic (less able to stretch). These changes can cause sex to be uncomfortable or painful. They can also lead to inflammation in the vagina known as atrophic vaginitis. These changes can make a woman more likely to develop vaginal infections from yeast or bacterial overgrowth and urinary tract infections.

Before menopause, women have lower rates of heart attack and stroke than men. After menopause, however, the rate of heart disease in women continues to rise and equals that of men after age 65.

At the time of menopause, doctors often recommend a bone density measurement. The test result sometimes will detect early osteoporosis. More often the result is used as a baseline to compare rate of bone loss in the future.

Another test is endometrial biopsy. An endometrial biopsy is an office procedure in which a tiny piece of endometrial tissue from inside the uterus is taken and examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. This test may be done when a woman is having irregular, frequent or heavy bleeding, but it is not routinely recommended as a test for menopause.

Menopause is a natural event and cannot be prevented. Medications, diet and exercise can prevent or eliminate some symptoms of menopause and enhance a woman's quality of life as she grows older.

The Gabapentin (Neurontin) moderately effective in treating hot flashes. Gabapentin's main side effect is drowsiness. Taking it at bedtime may help improve sleep while decreasing hot flashes.

Etidronate (Didronel), alendronate (Fosamax) and other similar drugs are the most effective medicines that can be used to both prevent and treat osteoporosis. They increase bone density and decrease the risk of fractures.

Raloxifene (Evista) drug has some of the beneficial effects of estrogen without the increased risk of breast cancer. It is effective in building bone strength and preventing fractures.

There is no relation between the time of a woman's first period and her age at menopause. The age at menopause is not influenced by a woman's race, height, number of children or use of oral contraceptives.

Understanding menopause. Woman health.






Terms and definitions on this page

Anxiety


Chlorella


Estrogen


Menopause


PMS


Perimenopause


Progesterone


Biopsy


Climacteric


Depression


Estrogen


Hormone


Osteoporosis


Premenstrual syndrome


Progesterone


Stress


Testosterone


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Information in this document about Woman health named Understanding menopause is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. The information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments of Woman health. Additionally, the manufacture and distribution of herbal substances are not regulated now in the United States, and no quality standards currently exist like brand name medicine and generic medicine. Talk about Woman health to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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