What is menopause and how do I know if it has started?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
By definition menopause is the end of menstruation. It typically occurs naturally between the ages of 47 and 55 and is marked by a decline in the female hormone estrogen. Before that process starts, a team of hormones begins to fluctuate and that may cause your periods to become irregular. Some women start to get a hint that its beginning when they experience a hot flash, night sweat, vaginal dryness or sleep problems. Some women who experience symptoms younger than the average ages of 47 to 55 can have a blood test to measure hormone levels to help determine if they are experiencing early menopause. But one test will not make the diagnosis because hormones fluctuate over the course of a day and from week to week. Still, if your follicle stimulating hormone is consistently high, it can indicate you are in menopause.
Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her ovaries stop releasing eggs, she stops having a menstrual cycle, and is no longer fertile. Most women begin menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, but premature menopause can begin during a woman's 30s.

You will know menopause has started by symptoms such as fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, memory loss and mood swings. Menopause can also cause vaginal dryness, itching, and irritation, and decreased sexual desire.

Symptoms can be managed with estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, estrogen therapy may increase your risk of breast and uterine cancer, dementia, and other illnesses.

Talk to your doctor about menopause and what you can expect.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.