The menopause describes the phase of a woman’s life that signals the end of her child bearing years. Often referred to as ‘the change’ or the ‘change of life’ the menopause marks the end of ovulation and comes before the gradual slowing of menstrual periods. The hormone that is used to regulate ovulation and menstruation falls and symptoms of the menopause occur.
The majority of women are hit by the menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 but if a woman has not had a menstrual period for one year they have reached the menopause. More accurately, the symptoms leading up to the menopause is more accurately described as the perimenopause.
The extent of the process varies widely, but going through ‘the change’ usually takes between two to five years from the presence of perimenopause symptoms.
The menopause is completely normal and although it is a natural change, it can also occur for reasons other than natural circumstances. These include the following:
Premature menopause can occur when there is ovarian failure before the age of 40, it may be associated with smoking, radiation exposure, chemotherapy drugs, or surgery that damages the ovarian blood supply. Premature ovarian failure is also known as primary ovarian insufficiency.
Surgical menopause is one of the more serious cases that could follow the removal of an ovary or both ovaries. This could be the result of treatment for cancer, it results in an immediate menopause with women who often experience more severe menopausal symptoms than if they were to experience menopause naturally.
What does the menopause affect?
For many women the menopause is marked by the occasional hot flush and tiredness. Depending on the woman the symptoms can vary and come with both physical and psychological changes. The most common and more expected symptoms that often come with the menopause are mentioned below. Oestrogen provides the brain with chemicals which are responsible for mood regulation. The hormone can lead to a lowering of mood and affect the ability to cope with stressful situations.
Dizziness is another side effect of the menopause, this can be caused by anxiety and makes blood pressure fluctuate. Women may also suffer from sleep problems that are usually triggered by night sweats and problems such as snoring. The menopause causes thinning of the hair, this is caused by the drop of collagen which is a natural protein in hair so this means the hair becomes a lot more brittle. The natural rate of hairless can also speed up as the follicles need oestrogen to sustain hair growth.
Numerous medial conditions may develop after the menopause like weight gain, brittle bones, heart disease and overactive bladder. Women may also complain about frequent urinary tract infections during and after the menopause.
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