All About the Menopause
Menopause is the period that women go through when they stop having menstruation. Generally, it usually occurs when they’re over 45 years old. However, this is variable for each person.
It’s a long and progressive process associated with a decrease in the production of hormones; both estrogens and progesterone decrease.
As we’ve said, it doesn’t happen suddenly, but rather follows a series of stages:
- In the first place, perimenopause occurs: This is the period that includes the years before menopause (in which physical and hormonal changes are already taking place) and the year after the last menstruation.
- The next stage is premenopause: intervals of 2 to 8 years that precede menopause.
- Climacteric: This is the time interval that occurs between premenopause and postmenopause.
- The last stage is postmenopause: This appears between one year and 6 years after menopause.
During all this time, the woman undergoes physical and hormonal changes that can produce a series of symptoms that we’ll see in this article.
What can happen to me during the menopause?
According to experts, it’s estimated that up to 75% of women between 45-50 years of age suffer from some of the acute symptoms associated with hormonal changes during this stage.
Most of these symptoms are temporary, such as sweating at night or the famous hot flashes. Others, on the contrary, may last longer. Despite not posing any risk to women’s health, they’re somewhat unpleasant and uncomfortable, even affecting the quality of life.
In this regard, the appearance of symptoms can take place in several stages:
- Short term: Emotional fragility, sweating, hot flashes, irritability, palpitations, nervousness, and a tendency to obesity, among others.
- Medium-term: Changes in the musculature, skin, and the genitourinary system.
- Long-term: Osteoporosis and increased cardiovascular risk.
What exactly are hot flashes?
We focus on hot flashes because it’s the most common symptom and the one that can be the most bothersome. Hot flashes begin in the premenopausal stage and gradually disappear over time. They usually last between 5 months and 6 years, depending on the woman.
They manifest in the form of sudden heat in the face, neck, and chest areas. These manifestations are followed by sweating, with a subsequent drop in body temperature and an increase in heart rate.
A distinguishing feature is that they’re more frequent at night, so they sometimes interrupt a woman’s normal sleep cycle and can last up to 4 minutes.
How can I relieve the symptoms?
As menopause is inevitable and can’t be stopped, treatment will be aimed at alleviating symptoms and preventing complications in the long and medium term.
Below, we’ll explain a series of measures that can be useful to alleviate symptoms:
- Go to the doctor regularly, in order to detect the risk of an associated disease, such as osteoporosis.
- Go to the gynecologist on a regular basis for mammography and cytology tests. This will help prevent any complications.
- Try not to smoke. Tobacco increases the possibility of heart attacks and lung cancer, among others.
- Your doctor may recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). This treatment is effective in improving depressive symptoms. Thanks to it, the estrogens that the ovaries stop producing during menopause (the hormones in charge of female sexual functions) are replaced.
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After menopause, a woman’s likelihood of certain conditions increases. Among them are:
- Cardiovascular disease: When estrogen levels decrease, the risk of suffering from this type of disease increases. Therefore, it’s important to exercise regularly, eat in a healthy and varied way, and stay at your ideal weight.
- Osteoporosis: This disorder causes bones to become weaker and more brittle. As a consequence, the risk of fractures increases.
- Urinary incontinence: As the tissues of the vagina and urethra lose elasticity, the urge to urinate frequently and suddenly is felt. Sometimes there’s even involuntary loss of urine. It’s also common for urinary tract infections to increase.
- Landa Goñi, J., Lopes Rauno, P., Hernandez Nunez, J., & Nunez Palomo, S. (2002). Menopausia. Atencion Primaria. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0212-6567(02)79072-0
- American Heart Association. (2016). Enfermedades cardiovasculares.
- Capote Bueno, M. I., Segredo Pérez, A. M., & Gómez Zayas, O. (2011). Climaterio y menopausia. Revista Cubana de Medicina General Integral.
- Zárate, A., & Miranda, R. (1991). Osteoporosis y menopausia. Gaceta Medica de Mexico.