Symptoms of Menopause

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The term, 'menopause' refers to the physiological cessation of menstruation at a certain age, usually between 45-55 years, in life. Although the term is used to describe all the various symptoms that occur at this stage, the actual meaning of the word is just what it says - 'pause of menstruation'.

The symptoms of menopause occur mainly due to the changes in the various organs of the body as a result of decreasing estrogen levels.

Symptoms of Menopause due to Changes in the Genital Organs

  • Genital organs: The genital organs like the uterus, the ovaries, the vagina, the vulva and the breasts may all be affected by the decreasing estrogen levels in the blood.The breasts become flabby due to loss of breast tissue. The uterus can gradually become small and atrophied while the ovaries also decrease in size. The vagina becomes dry and there is a loss of secretions. The risks of vaginal infection increases. Sexual intercourse may become painful due to dryness.

  • Postmenopausal Vaginitis (Senile Vaginitis):There is an increased tendency to develop a type of non-infectious vaginitis called Postmenopausal Vaginitis (Senile Vaginitis). This vaginitis may cause severe itching of the vagina - one of the many common symptoms of menopause. Other symptoms are dryness of the vagina, especially during sex, pain during sex, frequent yeast infections etc. Read more...

Symptoms of Menopause due to Changes in the General Appearance

  • Skin and Hair: The skin loses its elasticity and becomes thin and fine. This is due to loss of elastin and collagen from the skin. Wrinkles become more prominent. Hair may become dry and coarse and there may be hair loss after the menopause. The voice may become somewhat deeper due to thickening of the vocal cords.

  • Weight Gain: Many women in menopause or perimenopause, tend to put on weight at this time. There is more deposition of fat around the hips, waist and buttocks. A good, low calorie diet and proper exercises can keep this weight increase in check.

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Symptoms of Menopause due to Changes in the Metabolism of the Body

  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis occurs due to more calcium loss in the urine coupled with less calcium absorption from the gut. Both these factors decrease the calcium level in the blood - this then causes calcium to move out of the bones, leaving them weak and liable to fracture at the smallest stress. Knee pain, joint pain and body aches are common. There is loss of height after the age of 65 due to increased curvature of the spine as well as a loss in the length of the spine. Many women come to the doctor with aches and pains in various joints of the body as the main symptom of menopause.

  • Increased cholesterol levels in the blood: Hyperlipidaemia or an increase in the level of cholesterol and lipids in the blood is common. This leads to a gradual rise in the risk of heart disease and stroke after the menopause.

  • Bloating and Gas: Motor activity of the entire digestive tract is diminished after menopause. The intestines tend to be sluggish. This causes indigestion, stagnation of food in the gut with bloating and gas formation. Constipation is common. Absorption of nutrients from the gut also decreases - so the menopausal women should always be careful to take adequate vitamin and mineral supplements. Insufficient water intake and absorption can lead to dehydration, further contributing to constipation.

  • Urinary Tract Infections: As the estrogen level decreases after menopause, the tissues lining the urethra and the bladder becomes drier, thinner and less elastic. This can lead to increased frequency of passing urine as well as an increased tendency to develop urinary tract infections. Urinary incontinence, stress incontinence and urge incontinence are other problems of the urinary tract that are common in women in menopause.

Symptoms of Menopause due to Changes in the Vasomotor System

  • Hot Flashes: Hot flashes are incidents where the woman in menopause gets a sudden feeling of warmth and flushing that starts in the face and quickly spreads all over the neck and upper body. These 'hot flashes' can occur at any time of the day or night. They can even keep her awake at night. They vary in number from 1 in one hour to as much as one in every 15 minutes. The hot flashes are often associated with profuse sweating.

  • Night Sweats: Night Sweats are closely related to hot flashes. Both usually occur simultaneously. Although sweats can occur at any time of the day or night, they are more common at night. The sweats can be severe enough to wake up the woman from a sound sleep and may make it difficult for her to go back to sleep. The sudden waking up from sleep can cause palpitations and sometimes panic attacks.

    Symptoms of Menopause due to Changes in the Psychology

  • Mood swings: The psychological changes are mainly manifested by frequent headaches, irritability, fatigue, depression and insomnia. Although these are often said to be due to the changes in the hormonal levels, they are more likely to be related to the loss of sleep due to night sweats, conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure at this age, and stressful life situations around this time - like retirement, health problems etc.

  • Pins and Needles Sensation, Numbness: The menopausal woman may also complain of occasional 'pins and needles' sensation or numbness on her hands and feet, more so at night. The medical term is 'paraesthesia'. While fluctuating estrogen levels can make the skin more dry and sensitive, this sensation is more likely to be the result of other causes like vitamin B deficiency, nerve problems, diabetes or other medical conditions, rather than due to menopause itself.

    Symptoms of Menopause due to Sexual Changes

  • Diminished interest in sex (libido): may be due to emotional upsets or may be secondary to painful intercourse due to a dry vagina.

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