For most women, the symptoms of menopause are fairly obvious. Although many women go through menopause without complications or nasty symptoms, others find their symptoms incapacitating, even during pre-menopause.
Symptoms can last for several years.
Most menopause symptoms are related to the decrease in production of female sex hormones, including estrogen. Symptoms of menopause can vary widely from woman to woman because sex hormones have profound impact on the body.
Estrogen, for instance, is responsible for the regulation of the menstrual cycle. It affects the reproductive system, urinary tract, circulatory system, muscles and bones, breasts, skin and hair, and the brain. Not surprisingly, when estrogen production starts to level off, it can affect the whole body.
The most common symptoms you can expect during menopause are outlined in this article.
Menstrual Cycle Changes
A sign of oncoming menopause may occur when your period stops being as regular as it once was. The flow may be lighter or heavier than usual, with occasional spotting. Your period may last for a shorter or longer period of time. It’s still important to take a pregnancy test to rule out the possibility of pregnancy if you miss a period.
Hot flashes are one of the most well-known and common symptoms of menopause. Many women complain of hot flashes—a sudden and unexplained onset of heat, sometimes in either the lower or upper portion of the body. You might feel your face and neck turning red, and you may start to sweat or become dizzy. Some women are even woken from sleep by intense hot flashes, which can last anywhere from 30 seconds to ten minutes. Hot flashes tend to appear for a year or two after last menstruation, though they sometimes last longer. Treatment from hot flashes include prescription drugs and alternative remedies.
Vaginal Dryness and Painful Intercourse
With the decline in production of hormones such as estrogen, the vaginal walls become dryer. Though this can happen to women at any age, it’s a common problem for women going through menopause. The vulva may sting, itch, or burn. This symptom may also cause painful intercourse. Water-based lubes and long-acting vaginal moisturizers can help to treat dryness. If you still feel discomfort, you should speak to your doctor.
Insomnia and Difficulty Sleeping
During menopause, many women find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. They may find that they wake more often, or earlier than they wish, and they have difficulty falling asleep. Relaxation and breathing techniques can sometimes help you to fall asleep easier. In addition, it’s important to get enough exercise throughout the day. Avoiding using a cell phone or computer, or watching television before bed can help to improve your ability to fall asleep. Relaxing activities, such as taking a bath, reading, or listening to calming music may be more helpful.
Other common symptoms related to menopause include:
- Frequent urination or incontinence
- Urinary tract infections, also known as bladder infections
- Decreased libido
- Depression and mood swings
- Changes in skin, hair, and other tissues
- Vaginal atrophy