Not all women experience the same symptoms of menopause. In fact, some do not experience any symptoms at all. Those who do exhibit signs of menopause sickness will have mild, moderate or severe cases that may or may not include diarrhoea. On average, women begin to undergo menopause between the ages of 48 and 52 and will experience symptoms for about five years.
Menopause officially begins when a woman is able to mark one year since her final menstrual period. However, she may begin noticing the symptoms of menopause well before that one year has finished, during perimenopause. More than 30 symptoms are associated with menopause, including dizziness, aching muscles, hot flashes, headaches, tender breasts and vaginal dryness. Women who suspect that they have started menopause should see a doctor for confirmation.
Menopause can be triggered by a total hysterectomy, the removal of both the uterus and the ovaries. Periods cease instantly, and symptoms are likely to begin right away. Menopause also begins naturally, caused by a decline in reproductive hormones. The body makes less oestrogen and progesterone, and fertility decreases. Eventually, this leads to menopause. Women undergoing radiation or chemotherapy as part of cancer treatments may also find themselves going into menopause, either during the treatment or within six months of completion.
Menopause spans a period of years and is split into two stages. Perimenopause begins during menstruation as hormone levels fluctuate and hot flashes occur. Pregnancy is possible, but unlikely, during this five-year stage (reference 3). Postmenopause begins one year after the last menstrual period. No eggs are released and the body produces a much lower level of reproductive hormones. Once you reach menopause, all of the following years are post-menopausal.
Menopause is a natural occurrence that requires no medical treatment. Some women wish to control the undesirable symptoms of menopause, and treatment is available for this. Hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) is effective in reducing hot flashes, though antidepressants and other drugs can also be used. Patients should be aware that HRT can have side effects like unwanted weight gain or increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Post-menopausal women are also at a higher risk of osteoporosis, so non-hormonal medications are sometimes prescribed to reduce bone loss.
Because of the many symptoms linked to menopause, it is not always clear what is a symptom and what is not. Some signs of menopause that have no proven connection to declining oestrogen levels include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. These symptoms are sometimes thought to be caused by anxiety or other emotional imbalances, but are not directly associated with menopause.
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