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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
What is menopause? Menopause is a phase in a woman's life, not a disease. Between the ages of 45-55, a woman's ovaries slow down, and in time stop producing an egg every month. A woman's body also begins to make female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in smaller amounts. This natural event marks the end of a woman's fertility and childbearing years and the beginning of a new and distinct stage of a woman's life. When a full year has passed without a period, menopause is considered official.
What are the signs/indicators? Although every woman experiences menopause differently, there are some changes that usually occur. Irregular menstrual periods and hot flashes are two common signs. A hot flash is a sudden warmth or flush that is often followed by sweating. It occurs in the head, neck and chest areas and usually lasts anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Hot flashes that occur at night are sometimes called night sweats. Twenty percent of women do not experience hot flashes.
Other indicators include:
Between 10-20% of women have symptoms that significantly interfere with their regular lifestyle.
What treatment is available? Lifestyle changes, non-prescription, and prescription remedies can all provide relief from menopause-related body changes.
In general, non-prescription remedies have been shown to be of limited value, but there is minimal risk in trying the following:
A woman should discuss her individual symptoms and concerns with her doctor to determine the treatment which best fits her needs.
Women who have experienced "natural" menopause (non-surgical) and still have their uterus are usually placed on a combination of estrogen plus progesterone to prevent cancer of the uterus that can be caused by the use of estrogen alone.
However, there are risks involved in taking HRT. These include:
The risks are rare in women under 60, but because there are no overriding long-term health benefits, it is recommended that women use the lowest dose of hormones that treats their symptoms and that they use hormones for a short amount of time. You should discuss the benefits and risks of HT with your doctor and consider your overall health when making a decision.
Last Reviewed: Jul 30, 2007
Margery Gass, MD
Formely, Professor, Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati