Menopause is a normal part of a woman’s aging process. It describes the various changes to a woman’s body that develop as she approaches the end of her reproductive period.
What Causes It?
A woman’s ovaries contain eggs, and they release once every month. The ovaries also produce hormones called progesterone and estrogen that control ovulation and menstruation. During menopause, the ovaries stop releasing eggs and they make fewer hormones.
Under normal conditions, this natural decline in reproductive hormones takes place when a woman is at least 40 years old. If it happens before the age of 40, it is described as premature, and it is often caused by surgery or damage to the ovaries.
If menopause occurs naturally, it develops gradually and has three distinct stages. The first stage is called perimenopause and typically lasts around four years. The ovaries gradually make less estrogen, and the woman’s periods become irregular. The drop in estrogen levels becomes more pronounced during the last one or two years of perimenopause, and many women experience menopausal symptoms. Perimenopause usually starts when a woman is in her forties.
Perimenopause lasts until a year after the woman’s last menstrual period. The woman is now in menopause, and her ovaries have completely stopped releasing eggs. They have also stopped producing most their estrogen. Most women reach this stage when they’re around 50.
Post-menopause describes the years after menopause. In most women, menopausal symptoms like hot flashes gradually fade. On the other hand, as the woman gets older, she will become increasingly susceptible to health problems linked to a decline in estrogen levels.
What are the Symptoms?
The best-known and most common symptom is hot flashes. They occur when blood vessels near the surface of the skin become dilated. Hot flashes cause a quick sensation of heat, sweating and a red face. Some women also experience rapid heartbeats or chills. Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night. Other signs of menopause can include the following:
• Skipped or irregular periods
• Urinary incontinence
• Vaginal dryness
• Changes in sex drive
• Mood swings
• Aches and pains in muscles and/or joints
• Racing heart
How Does a Decline in Estrogen Levels Affect a Woman’s Health?
Loss of estrogen during and after this life phase has been linked to a number of health problems that become more likely and prevalent as a woman gets older. They include the following:
• Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
• Heart disease
• Problems with the bowel and/or urinary tract
• Weakened vision caused by cataracts or macular degeneration
• Poor muscle tone and strength
• Decreased elasticity of the skin
At the SaJune Institute for Restorative and Regenerative Medicine, we offer treatments that can help to minimize the symptoms of menopause. Hormone replacement therapy is one possibility. It all depends on your unique situation. Our office is located in Orlando. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn more about your options.