Menopause Symptoms, Signs, Treatment & Relief
Introduction to menopause –what is menopause
Menopause is a natural physiological event in every woman’s life. During this period, the woman will stop her monthly periods and she no longer can become naturally pregnant. While the event of menopause is challenging both physically and mentally, some women welcome this new sort of freedom from the menstrual cycles whereas others feel embarrassed being infertile. In the US, the average age of menopause is 49 in smokers and 51 in non smokers. Nevertheless, this can range from 47 to 55 yr.
The changes of menopause start when the ovaries (the organs that produce egg) stops producing eggs. During this phase, the production of female sex organs falls down too. Hormones are biochemical substances secreted by glands or organs of endocrine system and travel through the blood to different organs and produce specific effects (they make the organ to work in a specific way).
The hormones produced by the ovaries are progesterone and estrogen that help regulating the woman’s monthly menses. When the woman reaches her mid-life, estrogen hormone starts falling in its quantity and production. The reproductive organs and system gradually starts shutting down and then they become inactive. Most of the women may observe that their periods are getting lighter, less painful, farther, and irregular just before reaching the menopause.
The tenure of menopausal transition could be from a year to 10 years and during this time, the hormone fluctuation is tremendous. Some months the woman may have heavy periods whereas others go dry. During this time though there are chances for the woman to get pregnant. Menopause is not an overnight event as it happens steadily. However, it may happen suddenly in cases of removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy, gland ailments, radiation or some severe illness.
The symptoms of menopause –menopause symptoms
The symptoms of menopause begin when there is significant disturbance in the level of estrogen in woman’s body. During this phase, the woman faces a lot of changes in her mood, physical and mental state. In early menopause, the estrogen level may rise significantly and then drop that in turn results in missing the menstrual cycle for this month and getting metrorrhagia (heavy bleeding during the menses) in the next. The periods are heavily disturbed in terms of regularity and then eventually stop altogether.
The primary menopause symptom for most of the woman is hot flashes and mood swing. Some women report that mental confusion is the major that bothers them. Also, feeling of sadness and depression is quite common. Apathy in sexual acts (maybe due to vaginal dryness or lack of desire) is secondary symptoms. Since estrogen level constantly stay at low level, the symptoms of mood swings, lack of interest in sexuality, hot flashes, mental confusion and mood swings disappear.
There are common menopausal symptoms mentioned below that we can classify in a unique way…
The brain: Mood changes that reflects tendency toward the sadness, anger and state of dilemma. In extreme cases anxiety and depression may occur.
The genitals: Dryness, itching and pain during coitus in vagina is common. There might be irritation and redness in and around the organ.
Blood vessels: There could be sudden temperature change or hot flashes. Waking during night for no reason is also quite common.
Urinary system: There might be frequent or sudden urination in some women attending menopause.
The bones: Osteoporosis may occur wherein the bones become brittle and tend to break with minor jerk. The woman with menopause thus required to take extra calcium supplements.
The heart: Heart problems may occur and there are higher risks of getting heart attack. Hypertension is to be watched out for women above 45 yr.
Menopause causes –what causes menopause?
The menopausal phase occurs due to a complex series of changes in hormone levels in the women. There is marked fall in number of functioning eggs in the ovaries during the menopause. At the time of birth, normal females produce 1-3 millions of eggs that are gradually lost throughout women’s life. When the girl reaches her menarche (beginning of the menstrual cycle), she has on an average of about 400,000 eggs. By the time she reaches her menopausal phase, fewer than 10,000 remains. In addition, a small amount of these eggs are again lost during the normal ovulation (the monthly menstrual cycle). Most of the eggs die in the physiological process called as atresia (immature ovarian follicles’ degeneration and subsequent resorption).
In a normal female, the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is responsible for the growth of eggs (ovarian follicles) during the first half of her menses. As she approaches menopause, the eggs those are remaining become further resistant to follicle stimulating hormone and the ovaries, in a dramatic manner, reduce their production of the estrogen.
The estrogen affects many body parts including blood vessels, heart, bones, breasts, uterus, brain, skin, bladder and kidneys. Loss of estrogen is thought to be responsible for most of the symptoms observed during menopause. During this phase, the ovaries also fall their production of testosterone –a hormone that’s involved in sexuality or libido.
When to see doctor? –menopause that seek medical care
All premenopausal and postmenopausal women must contact their health care providers annually for the body checkup. This exam should include breasts, ECG, pelvic and mammogram.
The woman must learn the risk factors that come with menopause. Heart disease, colon cancer, osteoporosis etc. should be monitored.
The women who still have menses are at risks of getting pregnant and hence they should take care of this. Birth control pills that contain low doses of estrogen might be prescribed for premenopausal phase. The drug can also help in getting rid of hot flashes and pain.
Over the counter medicines (OTC), lifestyle changes, prescription pills, exercises, diet, holistic exercises (such as yoga and pranayama) help tackling various signs and symptoms of menopause.
Menopause treatment –the cure or remedy of menopause
The menopausal treatment can be approached in two different ways; treatment of menopause in early stage and menopause cure or remedy in later phase.
In early stage of menopause, the woman may approach her health care provider and discuss the first signs and symptoms of menopause as they occur. There is increased risk of having breasts cancer or cardiac disease that is to be considered while discussing. Screening of these things helps preventing the damage. Also, osteoporosis (the brittleness of the bones that make them weaker and tend to break) in menopausal women is common and for this, the health care provider may prescribe some calcium supplements. Dietary changes are required to supply enough nutrition.
The health care provider may prefer getting the women a light dose of estrogen for a short duration after confirming that she is not at risk of developing breast cancer. The motto behind prescribing lower dose of this medication is tackling lots of menopausal signs and symptoms without having any side effects of the medicine. It is always though important to decide the pros and cons before starting any therapies during menopausal early phase.
The later phase of menopause requires utmost attention. Generally, symptomatic treatments are given to tackle the problems (such as pain killers, anti depressant drugs, antihypertensive drugs, multivitamins and additional health supplements).
Herbs for menopause –natural menopause treatment
There are certain herbs that help in tackling the menopause related signs and symptoms. Let us learn few of the important ones here…
Black cohosh: it is commonly used herbal remedy for hot flashes. Though not regulated and approved by the US FDA, black cohosh is widely used by women attending their menopause.
Plant estrogens: they are known as phytoestrogens. The soy protein, for instance, is quite popular remedy for hot flashes and other menopausal related symptoms. Phytoestrogens are natural plant estrogen (or isoflavones) that serve as women’s own estrogen when taken with proper dose for a certain period.
Typical herbs: typical herbs such as dong quai, shatavari (asparagus), red clover, chasteberry, evening primrose oil, Indian gooseberry, ashoka, lodra, yam cream have some effects on the menopausal symptoms but then they are to be taken under registered medical practitioners.
Miscellaneous: holistic exercises such as yoga, pranayama, meditation etc. help in relieving the stress and anxiety in women attending menopause. They are good and can be practiced for overall health too. Hypnosis, biofeedback and acupressure are other alternative therapies that are considered to be good in tackling menopause symptoms.