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Menopause is a natural process where the woman’s body stops producing eggs and the menstrual cycle ceases. In the lead up to this, hormone levels for oestrogen and progesterone can fluctuate. This is what causes menopausal symptoms.
The average age for menopause is 51 years. Symptoms of menopause can start earlier for some women (referred to as peri-menopause) and can last between 5 to 10 years as the body’s hormone levels change. During peri-menopause, a slow decline of oestrogen and progesterone levels occur. This can produce changes in the menstrual cycle such as irregular or heavy bleeds; hormonal symptoms may appear such as irritability, cyclic breast pain and headaches.
Symptoms can worsen (around two years before menopause) when the drop in oestrogen accelerates. Symptoms vary widely from woman to woman. What women are experiencing is real physiological changes that can affect mood, body shape and sleep as well as a myriad of other symptoms. It is a normal process, but can be distressing for some woman who experience severe symptoms. It is also important to note that women that have had surgery to remove reproductive organs will undergo early menopause.
There is a long list of symptoms that can be related to menopause. Hormonal imbalance affects all areas of the body.
Some common symptoms are:
Irregular periods, irritability and loss of concentration, low libido and vaginal dryness, anxiety and heart palpitations, depression, bloating, breast pain and tenderness, digestive problems, dizziness and fatigue, hair loss, hormonal headaches, hot flushes and night sweats, incontinence, itchy skin, joint pain and muscle tension, allergies, osteoporosis, sleep disorders, tingling extremities and weight gain.
Living a healthy lifestyle such as good sleep, regular exercise, eating nutritious food and reducing smoking and alcohol, can make you feel better and reduce long term health risks. If your symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor about other options available to help you through this time.
Symptoms of menopause should subside post-menopause. Due to the reduction in protective hormones your risk of developing osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease increases. It is important to keep fit and healthy to reduce your risk of developing these chronic diseases.
If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms that are dramatically affecting your everyday life, talk to your GP at Tindale Family Practice. There are options available for those that need a little extra support during this time. Irregular periods are common during peri-menopause but other conditions can cause abnormal menstrual bleeding. It is important to visit your doctor to rule out any other causes.