The experience of menopause can fluctuate widely. Some girls glide through the menopausal transition without appearing to have very many symptoms, whilst other have severe symptoms that can interfere with their quality of life. Menopause is when a woman permanently stops having menstrual periods. It’s not a disorder, but only life’s natural transition, from the reproductive to the non-reproductive period of a woman’s life.
However, menopause can’t be satisfactorily defined as a a “permanent stopping of menstrual periods” because it’s what happens to the ovaries which is vital to menopause, as opposed to what happens to the uterus (which is secondary). To illustrate, let’s suppose the uterus of a young girl is surgically removed. She would no longer be able to get any menstruation, but she isn’t menopausal, since her ovaries continue to produce hormones. On the other hand, if her ovaries are removed surgically, or destroyed through chemotherapy, she would instantly be in menopause.
Thus, menopause happens with the the cessation of hormone production by the ovaries. Occurs as part of a woman’s normal aging procedure. It marks the end of a woman’s potential childbearing years, caused by the ovaries gradually slowing down their role. FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) is a hormone created by the brain, and it’s responsible for stimulating the rise of the female’s eggs. As menopause approaches, the rest of the eggs become immune to FSH (hence FSH levels increase) and the ovaries decrease their production of estrogen significantly (hence, estrogen levels decrease).
It’s this changing and rapidly declining estrogen levels which is responsible for many of the symptoms associated with menopause. This may be caused by surgical removal of both ovaries or disturbance in normal ovarian function due to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, with every woman experiencing it otherwise. Some symptoms will be quite bothersome, whilst others are very manageable.
The most frequent symptoms include hot flushes, mood changes and vaginal dryness. Rapid bone loss occurs during the perimenopausal and postmenopausal years. Bone loss in itself is painless, but it may result in osteoporosis with increased fracture risk. Non-smoking pre-menopausal women seldom suffer for cardiovascular disease. However, within a decade of menopause, they catch up with the heart attack incidence of the male counterparts. The diagnosis of menopause is usually made in retrospect – after it’s been 12 months since your last menstruation, you’re deemed to be in menopause.
Occasionally, your physician may do some lab tests to examine the levels of specific hormones. This would include Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Estradiol levels. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone – since thyroid disorder can mimic the symptoms of menopause. Assessment of Osteoporotic risk – DEXA scan for people at greater risk of osteoporosis. Menopause isn’t a disease that needs treatment. However, short term Hormone Replacement Therapy may be prescribed in women with severe symptoms. Treatment can also be prescribed for the related effects of menopause eg.