Menopause is part of a gradual and natural process in which the ovaries produce less and less of female hormones, estrogens and progesterone and menstrual periods gradually disappear.
For most women, the process begins silently somewhere around 40 years of age, when periods become less regular. This time of change is referred to as perimenopause or premenopause.
The average age, women complete menopause is around 51, most women will have their last period sometime between 45-55 years. Menopause before 40 is considered early. This might run in the family or be as a result of a medical condition such as lupus, chemotherapy and radiation which can damage the ovaries and bring early menopause. Removal of ovaries as part of medical treatment can also cause early menopause.
Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
Each woman experiences menopause differently. Changes in the hormonal levels can cause a variety of symptoms that may last from a few months to a few years.
The most common symptoms include;
Change of Period: – One of the first sign of menopause may be irregular periods. The flow may be lighter or heavier bleeding may be prolonged. There may be spotting. Women have hit menopause after 12months without periods.
Hot Flashes: – About 75% of women experience hot flashes during menopause, making them the most common symptom. Hot flashes can occur during the day or at night. Hot flashes can be experienced for several years. This rush of heat could lead to sweating, heart palpitation and feelings of dizziness.
Problem with Vagina and Bladder: – Some women experience vaginal dryness, itching and burning. Vaginal infection can be more common. Some women also experience urinary tract infection or problems with holding urine.
Sex: – Some women notice that sexual feelings change with menopause. Vaginal dryness makes sexual intercourse painful while other women feel free after menopause, relieved that pregnancy is no longer a worry.
Sleep Problems: – Some women observe that sleeping becomes a problem, they either sleep late or wake up early and at times hot flashes can interfere with sleep.
Osteoporosis: – The decline in estrogen production can affect the amount of calcium in the bones. This can cause significant decreases in bone density leading to a condition known as osteoporosis. It can make a menopause women susceptible to hip, spine and other bone fractures.
Heart Diseases: – Conditions related to the heart may arise during menopause decreased estrogen can prevent the body from retainising flexible arteries and this would affect the blood flow. There may be cases of increased blood pressure.
Weight gain: – Changes in the hormonal levels can contribute to weight gain, although aging can also contribute.
Management of menopausal symptoms.
Hot Flashes: – Dress lightly, Avoid congested areas, Do breathing exercise during hot flashes to try to minimize its effects. Consult your doctor, if your efforts are not yielding results.
Osteoporosis: – Eat foods with lots of calcium, such as dairy products or dark leafy greens; take Calcium and vitamin D supplements, Exercise regularly, Reduced alcohol consumption and Avoid smoking.
Weight Management: – Focus on healthy lifestyle, Reduce sugar intake, include strength exercise in your routine.
To manage your symptoms, maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise to avoid unnecessary weight gains.
Consult your doctor if you’re not comfortable. You may need to be on Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Mood changes are common around the time of the menopause due to changing hormones. Anxiety and depression are common in women of menopausal age and are often at their worst just after periods stop.
Hormone changes are a natural part of aging. Unlike the more dramatic reproductive hormone plunge that occur in women during menopause, however sex hormone changes in men occur gradually.
Testosterone levels vary greatly among men. In general, older men tends to have lower testosterone levels than younger men. Testosterone level gradually decline throughout adulthood – about 1% a year after age 30 on average.
Recognizable signs and symptoms of low testosterone level may include;
Changes in Sexual function: – This might include sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, and fewer spontaneous erections – such as during sleep – and infertility. Testis might become smaller as well.
Changes in sleep patterns: – Sometimes low testosterone level causes sleep disturbances, such as lack of sleep or increased sleepiness.
Physical changes: – Various physical changes are possible including increased body fat, reduce muscle bulk and strength, and decreased bone density. Swollen or tender breasts (gynecomastia) and loss of body hair are possible.
Emotional changes: – Low testosterone might contribute to a decrease in motivation or self-confidence. There may be felling of depression or reduced concentration.
Management of Male menopause
Some of these signs and symptoms can be caused by underlying factors other than low testosterone, including medication side effects, thyroid problems, depression and excesses alcohol drinks. Once these conditions are identified and treated testosterone typically returns to normal level.
Treating aging-related low testosterone with testosterone replacement therapy is controversial.