Menopause – causes, side effects and treatments at NaturalPedia.com

Wednesday, May 09, 2018 by

Menopause refers to when a woman’s period stops and she ceases to be fertile. A natural process, menopause often occurs when women are 45 or older.

Menopause happens when a woman’s ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. A woman has reached menopause when she hasn’t had a period for at least a year.

However, the changes and symptoms associated with the process may manifest at least several years earlier. These symptoms may include hot flashes and/or night sweats, mood swings, and trouble sleeping.

Known side effects of menopause

Even though it is not categorized as a disease or disorder, menopause triggers various profound changes in a woman’s body.

Menopause is confirmed once a woman hasn’t had a menstrual period for a year. However, the side effects of menopause occur before the year ends and they may include:

  • Decreased fertility — Perimenopause refers to the period before menopause and it lasts for about three to five years. In the perimenopausal stage, a woman’s estrogen levels will decline considerably, reducing her chances of getting pregnant.
  • Emotional changes — During menopause, women can experience depression and low moods. These emotional changes may cause low libido/sex drive.
  • Hot flashes — Hot flashes are a sudden sensation of heat in the upper body. A hot flash can start in the face, chest, or neck, eventually progressing either upward or downward. During a hot flash, a woman’s skin may turn red and patchy. Women also start sweating during a hot flash. This side effect can be accompanied by a heart rate that suddenly increases, becomes irregular, or strengthens. Hot flashes are often experienced the first year after a woman’s final period.
  • Irregular periods — An irregular menstrual pattern is the first major side effect of menopause. In some cases, women have their period after two to three weeks. Other women won’t have a period for several months.
  • Night sweats — Hot flashes that occur during the sleep cycle are known as night sweats. Night sweats only last for several minutes.
  • Problems focusing and learning — Menopause can affect cognitive functions (e.g. concentration). Women can also experience short-term memory problems and difficulty focusing for long periods.
  • Trouble sleeping — Menopausal women may have trouble sleeping. Sometimes, night sweats can cause discomfort during the night, hence the disturbed sleep. This can also be due to anxiety or insomnia.
  • Urinary problems — Because menopause can disrupt a woman’s urinary cycle, menopausal women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs). A woman undergoing menopause may need to use the toilet more frequently.
  • Vaginal dryness — During perimenopause, women may experience vaginal discomfort, dryness, and itching. Because of vaginal dryness, some women may experience dyspareunia (pain during sex). Women suffer from dyspareunia because of the decline in estrogen levels. When a woman’s estrogen levels decline, vaginal atrophy may occur. Vaginal atrophy is the inflammation of the vagina caused by the thinning and shrinking of the tissues and decreased lubrication.

Menopause can also cause other side effects like:

  • Breast shrinkage
  • A buildup of fat in the abdomen — This can cause obesity.
  • Hair loss and thinning hair

If left untreated, these side effects will often cease after two to five years. But some side effects can last longer. For example, vaginal discomfort, dryness, and itching may become chronic and worsen without treatment.

Risk factors for early menopause may include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Chemotherapy and radiation
  • Chromosome defects
  • Epilepsy
  • Medications that reduce estrogen
  • Smoking
  • Surgeries (e.g. single oophorectomy, hysterectomy, cervical cancer surgery, pelvic surgery, or bilateral oophorectomy)
  • Thyroid disease

Body systems harmed by menopause

Menopause may cause the following complications:

  • Breast cancer — After menopause, women have a greater chance of developing breast cancer.
  • Cardiovascular disease — The decline in estrogen levels has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Osteoporosis — Women can quickly lose bone density in the first few years after menopause which can increase their risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Urinary incontinence — Because menopause makes the tissues of the vagina and urethra lose their elasticity, menopausal women may experience urinary incontinence.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent menopause

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent menopause and soothe its side effects:

  • Calcium — Calcium can help prevent bone loss. Sources include raw milk, nonfat yogurt, and calcium supplements.
  • Folic acid and fiber — Folic acid and fiber can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Sources include whole grains.
  • Fruits and vegetables — Low-calorie fruits and vegetables can help prevent weight gain while ensuring that you get enough nutrients.
  • Water — Staying hydrated can help ease the pain caused by vaginal dryness. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help keep your skin moisturized. Drinking water also minimizes the bloating that occurs due to hormonal changes.
  • Whole grains — Whole grains contain B vitamins that can boost energy, help manage stress, and keep the digestive system running. Sources include barley, brown rice, quinoa, and steel-cut oatmeal.

Treatments, management plans for menopause

There are different treatments for menopause and they are focused on soothing its side effects. Not all women seek medical advice while most women don’t require treatment. However, a consultation is advised it menopause if affecting a woman’s quality of life.

Treatment for menopause often includes:

  • Drug treatments for vaginal symptoms — Vaginal estrogen may be applied to the area via a cream, ring, or tablet. This medication helps treat dyspareunia, some urinary problems, and vaginal dryness. Moisturizers can also be bought over-the-counter.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — HRT comes in the form of a patch that is applied to the skin. The patch releases estrogen and progestin. While HRT addresses several menopause side effects, its risks include increasing the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer. HRT also increases the risk of coronary heart disease risk and stroke.
  • Medicines — Medicines for menopause include low-dose antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that can reduce menopausal hot flashes. Hot flashes can be treated with gabapentin (Neurontin and Catapres).
  • Osteoporosis treatments — Treatments for osteoporosis include dietary supplements and drug therapy.

Where to learn more

Summary

Menopause refers to when a woman’s period stops and she ceases to be fertile. A natural process, menopause often occurs when women are 45 or older.

The changes and symptoms associated with menopause may manifest at least several years earlier. These symptoms may include hot flashes and/or night sweats, mood swings, and trouble sleeping.

Menopause may cause complications like breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and urinary incontinence.

Calcium, folic acid and fiber, fruits and vegetables, water, and whole grains can help prevent menopause and soothe its side effects.

There are different treatments for menopause and they are focused on soothing its side effects. Not all women seek medical advice while most women don’t require treatment. However, a consultation is advised it menopause if affecting a woman’s quality of life. Treatment for menopause often includes drug treatments for vaginal symptoms, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), medicines, and osteoporosis treatments.

Sources include:

MedlinePlus.gov

MedicalNewsToday.com

Healthline.com

EverydayHealth.com



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