Key Points about Menopause
- Menopause is a natural stage of the female lifecycle, and the average age of menopause for American women is 51.
- Due to hormone fluctuations, menopause can cause troublesome side effects, such as hot flashes, mood changes and vaginal dryness.
- Treatment of menopause side effects usually includes hormone therapy or medications.
Menopause occurs in women after they’ve gone 12 months within a menstrual cycle. It is a natural part of the female lifecycle. Menopause can occur in your 40s or 50s; the average age of menopause in the United States is 51.
Causes of menopause include:
- Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries)
- Natural decline of reproductive hormones, which begins in your late 30s
- Radiation therapy
Menopause risk factors
All women will go through menopause at some point. Some factors can increase your risk of going through menopause early, which include:
- Having a hysterectomy
- Having primary ovarian insufficiency (a condition in which the ovaries don’t produce enough reproductive hormones)
- Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer treatment
Signs and symptoms of menopause include:
- Changes in mood
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Loss of breast fullness
- Night sweats
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain and slower metabolism
Your specialist will speak with you about the signs and symptoms of menopause that you’ve been experiencing over a period of months or even years. Gathering this information is usually enough for a women’s health provider to diagnose menopause.
Treatment for menopause focuses on reducing unwanted side effects, such as hot flashes or mood changes. Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatments for menopause:
- Bone health medications. Because your bone mass decreases as you approach and go through menopause, your specialist may prescribe a medication or recommend a supplement to prevent bone loss or treat osteoporosis.
- Hormone therapy. Your specialist may recommend estrogen hormone therapy to help reduce the occurrence of hot flashes.
- Hot flash medications. Your provider may prescribe other types of medications – such as low-dose antidepressants, Gabapentin or Clonidine – to help manage hot flashes.
- Vaginal estrogen. Your specialist may prescribe an estrogen cream, tablet or ring to help reduce vaginal dryness.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a women’s health provider for more specialized treatment.