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Menopause: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About menopause

Menopause is a physiological phenomenon wherein the menstrual cycle in a woman ceases. It is a normal process and not an illness. It is just a transition between two phases of a woman’s life, wherein the transition begins in the form of varying menstrual cycle length, which ends eventually. This transitional period is also termed as ‘perimenopause’ or just the time around menopause, which may very well last for upto even 10 years.

Menopause: Incidence, age and sex

The average age range for the woman to be menopausal is in between 48 and 55 years. It occurs a little early in women who smoke, women who have never been pregnant, or those living at high altitudes. About 1% of women experience premature menopause, where cessation of menstrual periods occurs before the age of 40. As a rough "rule of thumb," women tend to undergo menopause at an age, similar to that of their mothers.

Signs and symptoms of menopause: Diagnosis

The most prominent feature of menopause is experience of hot flushes, which occur with varying frequency in different women. Hot flush is a feeling of intense warmth over the body, which may last for a few seconds to a few minutes.

Burning sensation while urinating and urinary incontinence may also be experienced. Some women may observe a change in vaginal discharge. There can be vaginal dryness, and therefore pain during intercourse. The shape of breasts may change. Thinning of the skin due to loss of fatty tissue underneath, may result in appearance of wrinkles.

Another very common symptom during the peri-menopausal and menopausal years is rapid bone loss. Though it is painless, one is often at risk of bone fracture following slightest trauma. Cognitive or emotional symptoms may also be present which include memory problems, fatigue, irritability and rapid changes in mood.

Cholesterol profiles may also change. The bad cholesterol in the body increases which puts the woman at an increased risk of heart disease. Many women report some degree of weight gain. However, not all women experience all these symptoms. Some may experience a few of them, while others may experience all. Some may not experience any symptom at all.

Causes and prevention of menopause

Menopause is natural which occurs when a woman’s ovaries run out of functioning eggs and regulating hormones cannot make them work.

Sometimes menopause can also be induced surgically. A surgical intervention like complete removal of the uterus, removal of the ovaries, or damage to the ovaries from therapies like chemotherapy may induce menopause, in a woman.

Menopause: Complications

Several medical conditions may develop after menopause like brittle bones, weight gain, heart disease, and overactive bladder. Women may also complain of frequent urinary tract infections during and after menopause.

Menopause: Treatment

Menopause is not a medical illness, but symptomatic relief can be offered to alleviate troublesome symptoms during peri-menopausal and menopausal period.

Some of the symptoms like hot flushes may be relieved by giving a hormonal replacement therapy. However, some recent evidence suggests that it may have associated risks. A lubricating vaginal jelly can be used to relieve pain during intercourse, due to vaginal dryness. Urinary tract infections can be prevented by drinking plentiful liquids and frequent emptying of urinary bladder. Lifestyle changes such as regular physical exercise, dietary control, and cessation of smoking, help in reducing the risk of heart disease.