Symptoms of Menopause

What is Menopause?

Menopause refers to the time when the menstrual cycle in women stops. It is marked by a decline in the reproductive hormones in a woman aged between 40-50 years. 

When a woman goes without menstruating for twelve months at a stretch and cannot be pregnant naturally any more, then that period of time is marked as menopause. This phase particularly starts at the age of 45 to 55 but in many instances, it has been seen that menopause occurred after this age range. Women experience uncomfortable symptoms while going through menopause. However, most women do not need any medical treatment for menopause. It is a natural physiological phenomenon with changes in hormonal activities. 

Why Does Menopause Occur?

In women, eggs are released from their ovaries during their reproductive years. Female sex hormones namely oestrogen and progesterone are released from the ovaries. This hormonal secretion is the regulatory factor of menstruation and the release of egg or ovulation. In menopause, the ovaries stop releasing an egg a month and the menstruation comes to an end too. 

In lower levels of several hormones like testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone along with oestrogen and progesterone, the female physiology goes through several changes. Such change is marked by loss of active ovarian follicles. The ovarian follicles help in releasing the egg from the wall of the ovary. Release of an egg makes way for fertility and menstruation. In the absence of that, menstruation does not occur leading to menopause. 

Thus, as a part of ageing, menopause occurs in women after a certain age. By the age of 50, most women have reached menopause. In some specific cases, menopause can be induced too. 

How Can Menopause be Induced?

Due to some disorder if women have to get their ovaries removed surgically menopause is induced in them. Injury to ovaries leading to stoppage of hormone secretion or any change in the pelvic structure can because of the induced menopause. Surgical removal of ovaries is known as bilateral oophorectomy and is a common cause of induced menopause in most women. 

Among other reasons, ovarian ablation is another one. This means stopping ovarian function. If a woman develops oestrogen receptor-positive tumours, she has to undergo hormone therapy, radiotherapy or surgery. These cause the ovarian function to shut down. Pelvic radiation also induces menopause. Any severe injury leading to ovarian damage or destroys them, then it leads to menopause. Hysterectomy, a common surgical procedure of removing the uterus and ovary, causes menopause to induce. 

If menopause occurs in women before the age of 40, it is referred to as premature menopause. 

What are Perimenopause and Postmenopause?

Prior to the onset of menopause, the menstrual periods in women become irregular. This phase is known as perimenopause. In this phase, the production of oestrogen is lowered by the ovaries. During this time, the periods might be late or one may skip one or more periods. The menstrual flow becomes lighter or heavier in women. This stage lasts up to menopause when the release of eggs is completely stopped. This starts several years before the actual menopause and in the last couple of years, oestrogen levels undergo rapid fall.  Following this, comes menopause when for a full year, menstruation remains stopped. Postmenopause refers to the time after menopause has occurred. The typical symptoms of menopause generally go away in this stage. But as the oestrogen level is lowered or lost, health hazards may occur as the woman ages. 

What are the Symptoms of Menopause?

Though there are some common symptoms of menopause, women have reported varied experiences and it is said that the symptoms vary a lot from one woman to others. Before menopause sets in, symptoms of perimenopause infest themselves. A hot flash is the most commonly experienced symptom. In this, women experience sudden warm feelings spread across their upper body. These episodes of hot flashes are often accompanied by blushing and vigorous sweating. The first symptoms of menopause may also include:

  • Irregular periods

  • Missed periods

  • A feeling of dryness in the vagina

  • Soreness in breasts

  • A feeling of frequent urination

  • Trouble in sleeping

  • Emotional changes

  • Dryness in eye, mouth and skin

Now as menopause sets in and moves on to later stages, more symptoms tend to develop in women. The later symptoms of menopause include:

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Depression

  • Tachycardia or racing heartbeats

  • Irritability 

  • Pain in muscle and joints

  • Hair loss

  • Weight gain

However, the symptoms do not end with this list only. There are some other symptoms also that women very commonly experience. These are:

  • Sleeplessness or insomnia

  • Difficulty in concentrating

  • Problem in memorising

  • Infection in the urinary tract or UTIs

  • Reduced muscle mass

  • Feeling of stiffness in joints

  • Thinning of hair

Increased growth of hair on other parts of the body such as the neck, face, chest, the upper portion of the back etc. 

What are the Complications of Menopause?

Menopause alters the hormonal secretion and the release of eggs. Thus it brings forth a number of complications in women. These include:

Vulvovaginal Atrophy

Here the walls of the vagina get thinner as the oestrogen level is reduced. Vaginal infection or urinary infection is common in this condition. Females feel pain or burning sensation after urination. 

Dyspareunia

This refers to painful intercourse sessions in women.

Osteoporosis

Due to lack of oestrogen, bone mass and bone strength also become reduced to a great extent and the bones, especially those of knee joint, becomes porous and weak. Bones become more susceptible to breakage. 

Mood Swing

Women going through menopause experience sudden changes in moods and emotion. Thus emotional disturbance occurs in this period of time. 

Slower Metabolic Function

The metabolic rates are decreased in women. 

Cataracts

Menopause often brings with it the problem of cataract leading to blurry vision and trouble in seeing especially at night. 

Periodontal Disease

This refers to serious gum infection. It gives rise to gingivitis or inflammation in gums too. While brushing bleeding from the gum occurs. Plaques may also form on teeth. 

Urinary Incontinence

Women experiencing menopause fail to have voluntary control over the urge of urinating.

The Disease of Heart and Blood Vessels

The hormonal changes in menopause give rise to cardiac problems and other diseases of blood vessels. 

Macular Degeneration

The central point of the retina that is the centre of vision gets broken down causing macular degeneration. This again leads to poor eyesight. 

Menopause is a physiological incidence that every woman goes through earlier or later in their lives. The women of the age group 45 to 55 are most susceptible to develop menopausal symptoms. The mood swings and emotional disturbances are quite common which are only results of hormonal changes. Women must take care of their health during this time and seek help from others in case the need arises. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Menarche?

Ans: When female human beings reach puberty, they experience their first menstrual bleeding. This refers to menarche. It is the “central event” of puberty in females. This signals the onset of fertility in women. Girls reach menarche at different ages, but the average age of menarche is 13 years. When menarche will occur depends upon various internal and external factors like the genetic factors, female physiology, nutritional factors and other environmental factors. With menarche, secretion of oestrogen by the ovaries is initiated as regulated by the pituitary hormones. 

2. What is Menstruation?

Ans: The vaginal bleeding which occurs for 3 to 5 days every month in an adult woman is called menstruation or periods. Its periodicity of 30(+/-3) days almost coincides with that of the calendar months. The average interval of time between two cycles is 28.5 days. During menstruation, the progesterone support is withdrawn and the arterial walls of the endometrium ruptures being weak. This initiates the blood flow. The arteries of the endometrium go into spasm. In one cycle, a woman loses 30 to 50ml blood. The blood does not lot as it has already clotted and liquefied within the uterus. 

3. What Treatments are Followed for Menopause?

Ans:Menopause is not a disease and thus does not need treatment. But the symptoms, if severe, need medical attention. Hot flashes, sweating at night, flushing, osteoporosis and vaginal atrophy are treated with medicines. Otherwise, home remedies are recommended for menopause. This includes women keeping cool and dressing comfortably in loose clothes. Exercising to maintain weight is highly recommended. Women very often experience depression and anxiety during this period. Thus seeking counselling can also help, be it from a professional or the family members. Doing yoga and meditation also relaxes the mind and should be practised. 

4. What Supplements Should be Taken During Menopause?

Ans: Women are recommended to intake calcium and vitamin D supplements. This will support the weakening bones and eliminate the risk of osteoporosis. To facilitate the absorption of these two nutrients, supplementation of magnesium is also recommended. This also improves the levels of energy and eliminates trouble sleeping. In some cases, the individual might need to see a medical practitioner get a good list of supplements so that all the bodily needs are met and optimal health is maintained. By the woman.