It's that time in your life where you experience depression, fatigue, weight gain, crankiness. Not that you are ill, but these symptoms are usually noticed yet uncontrolled. To add to it, you keep experiencing changes in your libido and have gone months without a menstrual period. Not to worry. You are only entering another phase of your life. And that's what is termed "Menopause".
What is Menopause?
After 12 months without a menstrual period, it is a mark or clue that you are coming to the end of your menstrual cycle. Menopause is simply put, the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. It can represent any of the changes you go through just before or after your period ceases, marking the end of your reproductive years.
What's the cause?
It is caused by a change in the balance of the sex hormones of the body. In the female reproductive system, eggs are stored in ovaries. The ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, which control the period and release of eggs. When the ovaries no longer release eggs for some time, it is a sign of menopausal symptoms. It usually sets in after age 40 where the signs become more rampant. In case a person starts experiencing symptoms before 40, it may be premature menopause; which may result from hysterectomy, or damage to the ovaries, maybe from Chemotherapy. Smoking and other life choices could increase the severity and duration of the symptoms.
Symptoms of Menopause
The symptoms of menopause are unique. Most women experience hot flashes, feelings of warmth spread over their upper body, with sweating and blushing. Symptoms are mostly more severe when menopause occurs abruptly or over a shorter period. The most common early signs are:
- heavier or lighter periods than you normally experience.
- less frequent menstruation
- Hot flashes, night sweating (vasomotor symptoms).
It is stipulated that, on average, 75% of women experience hot flashes together with menopause.
The other common symptoms include;
ii. vaginal dryness
iii. weight gain
v. memory problems
vi. reduced libido, or sex drive
vii. dry skin, mouth, and eyes
viii. increased urination
ix. racing heart
xi. reduced muscle mass
xii. painful or stiff joints
xiii. reduced bone mass
xiv. increased growth of hair on body parts, such as the face, neck, chest, and upper back.
What processes occur during menopause?
Natural menopause is slow, and it is not caused by any type of surgical or medical treatment. It comprises of three stages;
Perimenopause: This phase usually starts several years before menopause, when the ovaries slowly produce estrogen lesser and lesser. This period lasts until menopause, the point at which your ovaries stop their release of eggs. Estrogen levels fall faster in the last two years of this stage. Menopause symptoms of many women begin at this stage.
Menopause: This is the period after the perimenopause stage. It is when it's been a year since you menstruated. At this stage, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and making most of their estrogen.
Postmenopause: This is the period after menopause. There is usually ease of menopausal symptoms, but health risks related to the loss of estrogen increase as you get older.
Menopause is a spontaneous process and as such symptoms must go away over time. But should a person experience long-lasting symptoms which are culminating into problems, common treatments used are;
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
This is also referred to as menopausal hormone therapy. Here, you take medications to replace the hormones that aren't produced anymore.
Medications for osteoporosis
You may take vitamin D supplements or medicines to help keep your bones strong. Other kinds of medications may be used to treat more specific menopause symptoms, like hair loss and vaginal dryness.
i. topical minoxidil 5 percent, used once daily for hair thinning and loss.
ii. antidandruff shampoos, commonly ketoconazole 2 percent and zinc pyrithione 1 percent, used for hair loss.
iii. eflornithine hydrochloride topical cream for unwanted hair growth.
iv. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly paroxetine 7.5 milligrams for hot flashes, anxiety, and depression.
Home remedies (Domestic treatments) and Lifestyle Changes
1. Exercise and caloric reduction
Reduce calories intake by 400 to 600 calories daily to manage weight. It is also necessary to accompany that with exercises, about 20 to 30 minutes daily, to promote a better night's sleep, improve mood, promote general well being and increase energy.
2. Staying comfortable and keeping cool
Dress in loose clothing, especially during night time to reduce night sweating. Keeping cool with good aeration and ventilation is also helpful.
3. Dietary Supplements
It is imperative to take vitamin D, magnesium and calcium supplements to help reduce your risk for osteoporosis and improve energy levels and sleep. Also, these vitamins should be abundant in your diet therefore you must ensure to eat a balanced diet.
4. Quitting Smoking and limiting alcohol intake
If you smoke, quit it as it can aggravate symptoms. Also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke such as smoke from cigarettes, and other sources which may make your symptoms worse.You should also limit your alcohol intake.
5. Skin Care
Daily application of moisturizers helps to reduce skin dryness. Also, you ought to avoid excessive bathing or swimming, which can dry out or irritate your skin.
There are also herbal treatments that have been used for estrogen deficiency.
Practising techniques for relaxation
It is essential to practice at least daily, relaxation and breathing exercises, such as:
i. Yoga: Practising yoga can lessen the emotional symptoms of menopause, achieving more than just treating the physical pain. These postures relax the nervous system, i.e. calm the brain and help relieve stress and mild depression.
ii. Meditation: Easing stress through meditation may assist in lowering the heat of hot flashes caused by menopause. Owing to the fact that menopause results in mood swings, engaging in meditation, in other words, mindfulness could help relieve stress and anxiety.
iii. Box breathing: Box breathing is a technique that enables you to take control of your breathing patterns to train your breath for optimal health and performance. It combines the practice of optimal breathing with para-sympathetic activation, concentration and mindfulness training.
Menopause has an influence on a person’s health and well-being, but it is not a disease, and it does not depict that the body is failing or old age is setting in. It only marks the end of reproduction although there have been advances in technology that make pregnancy after menopause possible.
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