Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive phase. It occurs when a woman does not see her period for over 12 consecutive months. Menopause usually happens in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s. However, early menopause can occur in people under 45 years, and the average age range for the onset of menopause is between 45 – 55.
Menopause is a natural occurrence, but it usually comes with hormone production changes like oestrogen deficiency. Physical changes also accompany menopause, and these changes are usually a cause for concern.
Experts in women health are available to help you manage the changes that come with discomforting menopause, especially hot flushes, insomnia, low mood, emotional instability and several others.
What is perimenopause?
Although most people are aware of the changes that accompany menopause,many women get confused with the changes they experience at the onset of symptoms. The absence of periods for over 12 months is necessary to diagnose menopause, but other symptoms usually occur before periods become irregular.
You may experience the following symptoms in the months leading to menopause;
- Mood instability
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Reduced breast fullness
- Weight gain
- Memory issues
- Reduced sex drive or libido
- Painful intercourse or vaginal dryness
Although conception rarely occurs during perimenopause, you can conceive even with irregular periods in your premenopausal stage, so using birth control is still important.
Onset of menopause
Menopause can occur due to several causes. Common causes of menopause include:
Ovarian failure or primary ovarian insufficiency
This is also called premature or early-onset menopause. Many women experiencing ovarian insufficiency do not discover the root cause of their early onset of menopause. In a few cases, they identify a genetic component or autoimmune disease as the cause of their condition.
Expert London gynaecologist usually recommends hormonal supplementation to manage the health consequences of oestrogen deficiency and menopause.
Naturally, hormone levels in women begin to reduce from their early 30s. As you age and get to your 40s, the decline in progesterone and oestrogen levels increases, reducing your level of fertility.
You may begin to notice changes in your period a few years to menopause. These changes may show in the duration, flow and level of discomfort experienced during periods. Still, the first symptom is usually irregular periods before the periods stop, which indicates the onset of menopause.
Surgical menopause occurs due to the surgical removal of the ovaries. This is usually done alongside hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). The onset of this menopause is more acute and shows more marked symptoms.
Certain treatments like cancer treatment that involves radiotherapy and chemotherapy can affect your ovarian function, leading to induced menopause. If you need this treatment, you can consult the oncologist to know the impact of your treatment on your fertility and whether your fertility will return in the future or not.
Menopause induced by some treatments shows the same symptoms as natural menopause, such as hot flushes and irregular periods.
What are the health risks associated with menopause?
Low oestrogen levels resulting from menopause can increase the risk of some medical conditions. The following are common health conditions that may result from menopause.
Cardiovascular disease is a direct result of reduced oestrogen levels. Although women and men are at risk of cardiovascular disease, and it is a leading cause of death, menopause increases women’s risk of this condition.
With lifestyle change, you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease to baseline. Your doctor can advise you on managing your risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other risk factors such as obesity, cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Menopause temporarily slows down metabolism, and obesity is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease. Taking certain lifestyle changes seriously, such as exercising and having a healthy diet, can help reduce weight gain and prevent obesity.
Oestrogen helps maintain vaginal health, but with the reduction in oestrogen levels, different changes will occur. These changes include the reduction in vaginal secretions and elasticity, leading to vaginal dryness.
This, alongside low libido, can cause discomfort during sex, but a wide range of treatments are available such as oestrogen-based pessaries, rings or creams.
Reduction in urethral and vaginal elasticity during menopause can cause incontinence and prevent you from passing urine when you feel the urge. This may result from sudden movements like when coughing or laughing.
Your urologist and women health expert can diagnose and recommend a suitable treatment plan to manage urinary incontinence.
When to see a doctor
If you notice these symptoms and they keep you uncomfortable or give you concern, ensure you consult your doctor. Depending on the symptoms experienced and your age, your doctor may advise you to carryout different tests to help rule out other health issues.
If you haven’t had your periods in over a year and experience bleeding afterwards, ensure you get checked, as this may be a sign of a severe condition.
What are the available treatments?
Menopause treatment usually involves lifestyle changes that have several overall health benefits. If lifestyle changes are not sufficient to alleviate your symptoms, your doctor may recommend other treatments.
The treatment plan will be custom-made to suit your needs, based on your screening results and concerns. These treatments include the following;
- Oestrogen containing medication for vaginal dryness
- HRT medication to help increase oestrogen levels. However, HRT treatment will require careful consideration of your symptoms, medication effectiveness, and risks
- Mental support to manage mood changes
To see a gynaecologist for issues concerning menopause, contact Private GPs London today on 020 7359 9880.