Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 to 55 years, with an average age of 51 years.
Menopause is preceded by a transitional period of several years called perimenopause in which menopausal symptoms may begin, and it is followed by a period called postmenopause in which menopausal symptoms may continue.
- Perimenopause is the menopausal transition that lasts an average of four years when periods change, usually becoming less frequent. Levels of the hormone estrogen fall, and symptoms of menopause may start to occur.
- When the menstrual periods end, and it has been 12 months since the last period this is considered menopause.
- Postmenopause is the time after menopause and menopausal symptoms may continue to occur for up to a decade after menopause ends.
What Are Symptoms of Menopause?
Some people have few or no menopausal symptoms, and others have symptoms that interfere with their life.
During perimenopause, changes in hormone levels in the body cause changes in menstrual periods:
- Symptoms of menopause begin, such as hot flashes
- Menstrual periods occur more or less often than usual
- Bleeding lasts fewer days than before
- Missed menstrual periods
- Abnormal bleeding — see a doctor if the following occurs:
- Vaginal bleeding more often than every three weeks
- Excessive, heavy menstrual bleeding
- Spotting between periods
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause (even if it's just a spot of blood)
Symptoms of menopause include:
What Causes Menopause?
Once a person has not had any periods for 12 full months, menopause has been reached.
Menopause may also be caused by:
- Surgical removal the ovaries
- Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation
- Hormone therapy treatment for breast cancer
- Premature ovarian failure (also called primary ovarian insufficiency) which may be caused by:
What Is the Treatment for Menopause?
Some people have no symptoms of menopause or only mild symptoms and do not need treatment.
If symptoms are bothersome or severe enough to disrupt your life, treatments may include:
- Menopausal hormone therapy
- Estrogen for hot flashes can be started before the age of 60 years may be given for up to five years
- Hormone therapy involving a combination of estrogen and progestin (a progesterone-like medication), to relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness, depression, and other mood problems
- Vaginal estrogen for vaginal dryness
- Bioidentical hormone products and compounded preparations are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the dose of hormones can vary from batch to batch
- Vaginal lubricants moisturizers for vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
- Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles for urinary incontinence
- Lifestyle changes
- Antidepressants for depression
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