Menopause: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, and How to Reduce Symptoms

Menopause is the time in every woman’s life when there is a permanent end of menstrual cycle and childbearing (fertility). This is typically defined as 12 months after the woman’s last menstrual period that usually occurs in the woman’smid 40’s tomid-50’s, but may occur as early as in the early 30’s to as late as the 60’s.Menopause is a gradual process wherein the perimenopausal period, the transition period from the last menstrual cycle to the 12 months after, will vary and be a different experience for every woman.

Menopause is not a disease or a condition, it is a natural biological process wherein the ovaries cease to function and stop producing oestrogen and progesterone. Although fertility ends, women can stay healthy, vibrant and sensual. The onset of menarche (first menstrual cycle) will not determine the age of menopause.Menopause causes a wide array of symptoms ranging from physical and emotional indicators.Women should not hesitate to seek medical help for symptoms that may cause discomfort as many treatments are available and effective.

What Causes Menopause?

Although menopause is a natural occurrence for all women, other factors can increase chances of early menopause. These include:

  • Natural decline of reproductive hormones: decreased production of oestrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle
  • Total hysterectomy: removal of uterus and ovaries
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy: may temporarily stop menstruation but may also encourage menopause
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency: ovaries are incapable of producing sufficient reproductive hormones at the normal level

What are the Symptoms of Menopause?

                The months leading to menopause may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal menstrual cycles or vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal itching or irritation
  • Hot flashes and/ or night sweats
  • Mood changes
  • Cognitive symptoms
  • Sleep problems
  • Urinary incontinence and urinary retention
  • Delayed metabolism
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Wrinkles and acne
  • Loss of breast fullness

What Complications can arise from Menopause?

After menopause, chances for developing certain medical diseases include:

  • Osteoporosis: weakened and brittle bones
  • Cardiovascular disease: heart and blood vessel problems
  • Urinary incontinence: involuntary loss of urine
  • Sexual function: may also decrease libido

How are Symptoms of Menopause Reduced?

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Although it is not a disease, it may provide discomfort to women. Effective treatments for menopausal symptoms are available and can be used.

  • Cool hot flashes by dressing in layers. Drink cold water regularly and avoid warm places.
  • Identify the cause of hot flashes and avoid them. The common culprits include hot weather, hot beverages, caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, stress, etc.
  • Apply over-the-counter (OTC) vaginal lubricants to limit vaginal discomfort.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Exercise during the day regularly.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Perform Kegel exercises which can be used to improve urinary incontinence.
  • Hormone (oestrogen and progesterone therapy: minimizes symptoms of menopause such as, hot flashes
  • Oral contraceptives: used to treat irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Low dosage antidepressants: also minimizes hot flashes but can also be used for mood disorders
  • Gabapentin: to treat hot flashes and migraines
  • Vaginal oestrogen: reduce vaginal dryness

Disclaimer: The hints mentioned above should not be used for medical advice or treatment. The hints are just for information. To learn how to treat the symptoms of menopause and other natural occurrences in the body, enrol in First Aid Courses.