Is It The Change Of Life?
About 70% of women begin to experience the signs and symptoms of menopause as they come closer to the end of their fertile years. The most common sign of menopause, of course, is the cessation of the menstrual period. Other typical symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, mood swings, abdominal weight gain, loss of fullness in the breasts, and thinning hair.
All of these symptoms are due to fluctuating levels of reproductive hormones. Prior to menopause, most women experience perimenopause, in which the menstrual periods become irregular and change in character. This intermediate stage between the fertile years and menopause may occur in a woman's early 40's.
Most often, the symptoms of menopause last from perimenopause until the menstrual periods have ceased for an entire year. By this time, a woman may be in her mid 50's. For some women, however, the symptoms of menopause never end. In any event, it's prudent to be under the care of a gynecologist during this transition period, and proper advice and treatment may mitigate or even eliminate the worst of the symptoms. Read on for specific information about the symptoms of menopause.
Hot Flashes—Up to 85% of all menopausal women experience hot flashes. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of intense heat that suffuses the body and visible reddening of the face and upper body.
Sleep Disturbances—The most common sleep disturbance comes in the form of night sweats, the kissing cousin of the hot flash. This condition is also known as nocturnal hyperhydrosis. In many cases more intense than a hot flash, a woman who experiences night sweats will awaken drenched in perspiration.
Irregular Menstruation—While most women experience the odd irregular or unusual menstrual period, perimenopause is different in that the irregular becomes the norm. Your cycles may shorten from 28 to 24 days, or your periods may be lighter one month and much heavier the next. Your period may be over in the blink of an eye, or go on so long you become alarmed. You may skip a period, and then go back to your usual cycle. All of this is typical for a woman in her forties.
Vaginal Dryness—You may feel some irritation or itchiness in the vaginal area, as your tissues become thinner and less elastic. There may also be some pain during intercourse. Your vagina may even shrink a bit, due to the atrophying of the vaginal tissues during this time. You may find you need a bit of help in the form of a commercial lubricant for comfortable, pleasurable sex at this stage. On the other hand, research shows that lots of intercourse at this time can help maintain the elasticity and natural lubrication of the vagina.
Mood Swings—Some women may experience sudden tears, or a bit of the blues during the menopausal years. An understanding partner is a big help at this time. If your symptoms are difficult, don't try to brave it out. It's important to seek medical help.
Abdominal Weight Gain—Some of the middle-age spread you experience is due to a slowing metabolism, but some studies suggest that fluctuations in hormone levels can cause a redistribution of fat and a general weight gain. Cut back on your calories and exercise more to compensate for these changes.
Thinning Hair—Thinning hair is a sign of estrogen deficiency, and may occur not just on your hair but anywhere there is hair growth on the body.
Find out what other menopausal women are saying about menopausal itchiness in our menopause forum.