9 Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
- Hot flashes: Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause. According to some studies, hot flashes occur in as many as 75% of perimenopausal women. Hot flash symptoms vary among women. Commonly, a hot flash is a feeling of warmth that spreads over the body, lasting from around 30 seconds to a few minutes. Flushed (reddened) skin, palpitations (feeling a strong heartbeat), and sweating often accompany hot flashes. Hot flashes often increase skin temperature and pulse, and they can cause insomnia, or sleeplessness. Hot flashes usually last 2 to 3 years, but many women can experience them for up to 5 years or longer. An even smaller percentage may have them for more than 15 years.
- Urinary incontinence and burning on urination
- Vaginal changes: Because estrogen affects the vaginal lining, perimenopausal women may also have pain during intercourse and may note a change in vaginal discharge.
- Breast changes: Menopause may cause changes in the shape of the breasts.
- Thinning of the skin
- Bone loss: Rapid bone loss is common during the perimenopausal years. Most women reach their peak bone density when aged 25 to 30 years. After that, bone loss averages 0.13% per year. During perimenopause, bone loss accelerates to about a 3% loss per year. Later, it drops off to about a 2% loss per year. No pain is usually associated with bone loss. However, bone loss can cause osteoporosis, a condition that increases the risk of bone fractures. These fractures can be intensely painful and can interfere with daily life. They also can increase the risk of death.
- Cholesterol: Cholesterol profiles also change significantly at the time of menopause. Total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels increase. Increased LDL cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
- Heart disease risk increases after menopause, although it is unclear exactly how much is due to aging and how much is caused by the hormonal changes that occur at the time of menopause. Women who undergo premature menopause or have their ovaries removed surgically at an early age are at an increased risk of heart disease.
- Weight gain: A three year study of healthy women nearing menopause found an average gain of five pounds during the three years. Hormonal changes and aging are both possible factors in this weight gain.
When to Call Your Doctor
- All perimenopausal and postmenopausal women should see their health care practitioner annually for a full physical exam. This exam should include a breast exam, pelvic exam, and mammogram.
- Women should learn about the risk factors for heart disease and colon cancer from their health care professional and consider being screened for these diseases.
- Women who are still menstruating and are sexually active are at risk of becoming pregnant (even if their periods are irregular). Birth control pills containing low doses of estrogen can be useful for perimenopausal women to prevent pregnancy and to relieve perimenopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.
- Over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, help control hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, including high cholesterol and bone loss.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017
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