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If your periods used to be as regular as a headline involving Google, but now they come and go and are as unpredictable as the weather, you are beginning menopause. Technically, menopause comes about when you have stopped monthly bleeding for a year. Keeping a diary or using a smart phone app can help you track the quality, quantity and frequency of your monthly cycle. Some women stop suddenly and permanently without any warning. Others experience subtle changes in mood, memory, cognition, sex drive, and more. To know for sure, your doctor can check your levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and thyroid hormone. Abnormalities in thyroid hormone can mimic symptoms of menopause. If your doctor sees your estrogen levels are dropping and your FSH levels are rising, then it’s a pretty good sign that you are perimenopausal.
You will know you've reached menopause when you haven't had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. You will likely reach the milestone of menopause during your 50s. The average age of menopause for U.S. women is 51, with most women reaching menopause somewhere between ages 45 and 55.
If you're not quite there yet, periods may be few and far between. Hot flashes, one of the most common menopausal symptoms, may be making you uncomfortable. And you may notice that your skin is thinner and dryer now.
While sun exposure over the years is mostly responsible for changes in your skin's appearance -- more wrinkles and brown spots, for example -- declining estrogen levels can cause the lining of your vagina to be thinner and drier as well. That's why sexual activity for some women at this life stage can be uncomfortable or painful.
Estrogen decline during menopause can contribute to short-term memory loss and problems with word recall. Its effect on the brain also is the source of hot flashes, trouble sleeping and decreased serotonin levels, which can affect your sense of well-being.
It's important to remember that each woman experiences menopause in her own way -- while some don't seem bothered by symptoms, other women may feel miserable and overwhelmed by them. There are a wide variety of lifestyle changes and treatment options to help you manage menopausal symptoms, so don't give up!
Menopause is considered the absence of a period for one year. Symptoms can vary greatly from minor to severe. Symptoms include irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, moodiness, difficulty sleeping and vaginal dryness.
You're in menopause if you have not had a menstrual period for one full year. The period of about six years leading to this point is called perimenopause. You'll know you're experiencing perimenopause when you notice some of these signs:
- Changes in your menstrual periods -- shorter, longer, heavier, lighter, or more or less time in between.
- Hot flashes.
- Night sweats.
- Trouble sleeping through the night.
- Vaginal dryness and pain.
- Mood changes.
- Less hair on the head, more hair on the face.
Typical symptoms include hot flashes or flushes, insomnia, weight gain and bloating, mood changes, irregular menses, and headache. Symptoms may begin during perimenopause and continue for 5-10 years after menopause.
When 12 consecutive months pass without a period, women can consider themselves menopausal. Usually, they experience symptoms such as hot flashes, feeling flushed, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. Other symptoms include memory loss, achy joints, changes in skin and hair, and sleep disturbances. Keep in mind that other medical conditions can cause these same symptoms, so don’t blame everything on menopause. See your care provider to determine the cause of your symptoms.
It's important for women over 40 to know how to recognize menopause. Very simply, menopause is a clinical diagnosis based on not having had a period for 12 consecutive months, provided there's no other reason, such as being pregnant or nursing.
The average age for menopause onset is 51. Women have menopausal symptoms beforehand if they undergo menopause earlier or experience perimenopause -- an approximate two- to 10-year time span of having periods along with some menopausal symptoms.
Common symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause include missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, forgetfulness, low libido, and mood swings. Sleep disturbances, an often-overlooked symptom, also are common.
This content originally appeared on doctoroz.com
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.