Symptoms of Menopause
General information about symptoms of Menopause: The symptom information on this page attempts to provide a list of some possible symptoms of Menopause. This symptom information has been gathered from various sources, may not be fully accurate, and may not be the full list of symptoms of Menopause. Furthermore, symptoms of Menopause may vary on an individual basis for each patient. Only your doctor can provide adequate diagnosis of symptoms and whether they are indeed symptoms of Menopause.
List of symptoms of Menopause: The list of symptoms mentioned in various sources for Menopause includes:
- Hot flushes - sudden warmth and then sweating; affecting about 75% of women.
- Menstrual changes
- Vaginal problems
- Urinary problems
- Emotional symptoms - it is unclear whether all these symptoms are caused by or merely commonly associated with menopause
- Sexual problems
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Thinning hair
- Skin eruptions
Symptoms of Menopause: The transformation into the beauty of mid life usually doesn't happen all at once. In perimenopause, or the transition period to menopause, the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone begin to fluctuate, causing a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes and mood swings. During this time, a woman may or may not have a period.1
While many women have little or no trouble with menopause, others have moderate to severe discomfort. Some women may experience troublesome symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. Hot flashes, caused by fluctuating hormones, have become the hallmark symptom of menopause. Hot flashes are a sudden flush or warmth, often followed by sweating. This is caused by hormonal changes and their effect on your body's natural regulation of its temperature. It is good to try to have a sense of humor as you constantly feel the need to shed clothing to cool off, but in fact hot flashes can cause serious discomfort and sleepless nights for some women.
Other classic symptoms of menopause that you might experience:
Depression and mood swings;
Vaginal problems, including vaginal dryness and irritation that can cause pain during intercourse and gynecological exams, as well as frequent vaginal infections;
Urinary problems, including burning or pain when urinating, or stress incontinence, the weakening of tissues in the urinary tract which causes urine to leak when sneezing, coughing, or laughing;
Changes in sex drive and sexual response;
Hair loss; or
"Spotting" and abnormal bleeding (usually normal, but should be reported to your doctor).
Some women find that they gain weight or that their hair thins after menopause. Some symptoms, such as memory problems or feeling sad could have causes that are unrelated to menopause. If you are having these symptoms, it is important to discuss them with your health care provider. And although changes in bleeding are normal as you near menopause, abnormal bleeding should also be reported to your health care provider, since this could be a sign of other problems.
A lack of estrogen during menopause also causes the bones to lose calcium and become weaker, putting women at risk for severe bone loss or osteoporosis. (Before menopause, you need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. After menopause, you need 1,500 per day.) A lack of estrogen also causes an increased risk of developing heart disease. 1
Although very rare before the age of 40, menopause can happen anytime from your 30ís to your mid-50ís or even later. Smokers often begin menopause earlier than non-smokers. If you have both ovaries removed (bilateral oophorectomy) during a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), you may have the symptoms of menopause right away, no matter your age. Once your uterus is removed, your periods will stop.2
The event that marks menopause is your final menstrual period. You will know for sure that you have experienced menopause when you have not had a period in a year. Only then can you be sure that you are no longer able to get pregnant.2
Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause a variety of
symptoms. You may have little or no trouble with hot flashes or other
signs of menopause. Some women, however, have slight discomfort or worse.
Common changes you might have are:
Hot flashes.A hot flash or flush is common in perimenopause. Possibly 80 % of American women have them. Suddenly you feel heat in the upper part or all of your body. Your face and neck become flushed. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow. Flashes can be as mild as a light blush or severe enough to wake you from a sound sleep (called night sweats). Most flashes last 30 seconds to 5 minutes. They should disappear within a few years after menopause.
Problems with the vagina and bladder. Body tissue in the genital area becomes drier and thinner as estrogen levels change. Sexual intercourse might become painful for you because of this dryness. You might also be more likely to have an infection in your vagina. As you get older, you may begin to have urinary tract problems. These could be more infections, trouble holding urine when you feel the need to go to the bathroom (urge incontinence), or problems holding urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh, run, or step down (stress incontinence). If you have any of these problems, see your doctor.
Sex.Until you have gone 1 year without a period, you should still use birth control if you do not want to become pregnant. Around the time of menopause, your feelings about sex might change. You might have trouble becoming sexually aroused because of hormone changes, discomfort due to changes in the vagina, or medicines you are taking. Or, you might feel freer and sexier after menopause---relieved that pregnancy is no longer a worry. Remember that after menopause you can still get sexually-transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Fatigue and sleep problems. Feeling tired is another common symptom. You might have trouble getting to sleep, waking early, or getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. Women may be awakened by night sweats or the need to go to the bathroom.
Mood changes.Some people think that women may be more moody, irritable, or depressed around the time of menopause. There might be a connection between changes in the estrogen level and your emotions. Other causes for these mood shifts might be stress, family changes such as children leaving home, and feeling tired.
Changes in your body. Visible changes with menopause may include a thickening at the waist, loss of muscle mass and increase in fat tissue, or thinning and loss of stretchiness in the skin.
Other possible signs.Some women may experience headaches, memory problems, and joint and muscle stiffness or pain.
More symptoms of Menopause: In addition to the above information, to get a full picture of the possible symptoms of this condition and its related conditions, it may be necessary to examine symptoms that may be caused by complications of Menopause, underlying causes of Menopause, associated conditions for Menopause, risk factors for Menopause, or other related conditions.
Medical articles on symptoms: These general reference articles may be of interest:
1. excerpt from Menopause: NWHIC
2. excerpt from Menopause - Age Page - Health Information: NIA
Last revision: June 3, 2003
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