Written by Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
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 right term for all the menopausal symptoms as well as menopause itself is 'Climacteric'. Climacteric is the transitional phase lasting for 1-5 years during which the reproductive tract changes in response to the decreasing activity of the ovaries.
The peri-menopause is the 3 to 5 year period before the menopause when a woman's estrogen levels begin to drop.
Symptoms of menopause like hot flashes, increased sweating, weight gain, mood swings etc. may start at this time and reach a peak in the first few years after the menopause. These symptoms usually last for about 3-5 years beyond the menopause and then gradually decreases. Some women however have reported suffering from these symptoms for as long as 10 years after the menopause.
Menopause occurs when the ovaries cease to function. So a woman who has had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may not be menopausal although she will not get regular periods. But a woman who has had her ovaries removed will go into surgical menopause even with an intact uterus.
A woman is said to be menopausal when she has not had her periods ('amenorrhea') for at least 1 year from the date of her last period.
Menopause usually starts with a gradual decrease in the amount of blood loss during each menstrual period and an increase in the gap between two periods. It is one of the main causes for late periods after the age of 40 years.
It may sometimes be associated with excessive and prolonged bleeding due to the hormonal imbalances at this time. If excessive bleeding does occur, it should be thoroughly investigated to rule out conditions like endometrial hyperplasia.
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