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Every woman will, at some point in their lives, experience menopause. For most women, menopause won’t occur until sometime around 40 years old and may continue for a few years though others may experience early or premature menopause. It’s really not a matter of if, but when and how long that this change will occur in our lives.
Causes of Menopause
Menopause is a naturally occurring process of aging as related to sexual reproductive ability. Typically it begins in women somewhere after 40 years old. Menopause is defined as the period of a woman’s life when the ovaries stop producing high levels of estrogen and eggs are no longer released, causing menstruation to cease.
The first year of this process occurring is menopause. Though the ovaries’ function may slowly change, after the first year, it’s known as post-menopausal. It may last for a few years until the ovaries stop producing high levels of estrogen altogether.
Whenever symptoms of menopause occur, you must discuss what may be happening with your doctor and primary care physician to make a precise diagnosis and eliminate any other possible causes.
Symptoms of Menopause
The loss of the hormone estrogen can lead to several side-effects in the body. A feeling of fatigue and weakness may occur, and in more extreme circumstances, a sense of extreme exhaustion may happen. While the loss of energy may arise from many factors, in fact, energy loss occurs, and kind-of has a mind of its own, but if you are of menopausal age, fatigue and energy loss may be attributable to onset of menopause.
Other symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes: A sensation of hot flashing through your body that raises body temperatures and is caused by changes in the hormonal levels that help the body regulate temperature and mainly be triggered by hot and spicy foods.
- Electric Shock: Along with hot flashes, a lack of hormonal balance in the body may cause an “electric shock” sensation caused by the neurons of the brain firing incorrectly.
- Irregular Periods: As hormone levels decrease, you may experience infrequent menstrual periods and go through premenstrual syndrome without a menstrual cycle occurrence.
- Mood Swings: About a third of all women experience some form of wild mood swings and possibly an increase in anxiety.
- Changes in Libido: A decreased libido is one of the more common symptoms of menopause, though there is an increase in sexual desire in some cases.
- Aches and Pains: Swelling and bloating, joint pain, and other minor aches and pains may be symptoms. Similar to PMS symptoms, these symptoms are more random and vary in intensity.
- Weight Fluctuation: With lower hormones, the body tends to absorb more weight, especially around the waist. This weight gain may impact your self-esteem and may lower sexual interest as well.
- Vaginal Dryness: The estrogen needed to lubricate the vagina is diminished during menopause and may make sex uncomfortable or even painful as a result.
- Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia may result from the body’s lowered hormone levels, as well as a byproduct of hot flashes and other discomforts.
- Fatigue: In over 25% of women who experience symptoms of menopause report feelings of fatigue. These feelings are due to lower hormone levels, hot flashes, and other discomfort associated with menopausal symptoms, insomnia, and other disruptions to a good night of sleep.
- Gastrointestinal Discomfort: From bloating to tongue sensitivity, many gastrointestinal and digestive problems arise as a symptom of menopause.
Early Menopause vs Menopause vs Postmenopause
Early or premenopause is a condition of menopause that occurs earlier than age 40, and after the first year of menopausal symptoms is called postmenopause.
In premenopausal cases, early menopause symptoms mirror many of those already discussed, with urinary tract issues such as increased frequency being another one to consider. Dizziness can be a symptom of lowered hormone levels and should be addressed with your doctor regardless of age or other symptoms.
In instances of early menopause, up to 60% of cases may not have identifiable causes. Other causes may stem from autoimmune issues such as hypothyroidism, Crohn’s disease, and other diseases. In some cases, genetic and hereditary factors may be a cause, while in extremely rare occurrences such as with Turner’s Syndrome and Fragile X syndrome.
While some symptoms of menopause and early-menopause are physical, others, such as self-image and esteem, are affected by perceived changes in the body. From worrying that you are aging too soon, that you’ve become unattractive to your partner and other psychological concerns, discussing all options with your doctor will help you find an excellent strategy to work through this change to your body.