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Symptoms vary from woman to woman. They may last 5 or more years. Some women may have worse symptoms than others. Symptoms of surgical menopause can be more severe and start more suddenly.
The first thing most women notice is that periods start to change. They become irregular and might occur more or less often. Irregular periods can last for 1 - 3 years before the periods completely stop.
Symptoms of menopause include:
Other symptoms of menopause may include:
In addition to the cessation of the menstrual period, the most common symptom of menopause is the hot flash. About 75% of women experience hot flashes during the menopause. It is a feeling of heat that lasts a few minutes and may or may not be followed by sweating. Some women have many per day and night. Some women never experience a hot flash. Hot flashes are most common during the transition when you are waiting for the year to see if you will get another period. They last on average 1-2 years, but it varies from woman to woman.
Menstrual changes: Many women experience irregular periods due to the changing hormone levels and the decreased frequency of ovulation (egg release). The changes may be subtle at first and then gradually become more noticeable. Common changes include short cycles (less than 28 days), bleeding for fewer days than usual, heavier than usual bleeding, lighter than usual bleeding, and missed periods.
Although menstrual irregularities are expected during menopause, menstrual changes can also be caused by conditions such as fibroids or pregnancy. Women who experience heavy bleeding (usually with clots), periods that come more often than every three weeks, spotting between periods, or bleeding after intercourse, should see their doctor or other healthcare provider.
After menopause, women no longer menstruate. Any woman who experiences vaginal bleeding after menopause should see her doctor or other healthcare provider. Hormone treatments can sometimes cause vaginal bleeding to resume.
Changes in the body during menopause are called climacteric symptoms. They include hot flashes, skin and hair changes, and vaginal changes.
Other changes: Other changes that may occur during menopause includes: loss of bladder tone resulting in stress incontinence (leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise); headaches; dizziness; loss of some muscle strength and tone; increasing loss of bones, increasing the risk for osteoporosis; increasing risk for a heart attack when estrogen levels drop (however, the addition of estrogen as a prescribed medication after menopause can lead to an increase in heart attack and stroke); emotional changes associated with menopause such as irritability, mood changes, lack of concentration, difficulty with memory, tension, anxiety, and depression; and insomnia that may result from hot flashes that interrupt sleep.
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The first symptoms at menopause are “withdrawal” symptoms because the body is reacting to the fact that estrogen is low so it starts sending out “distress” symptoms. These include hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, anxiety, depression, irritability, crying spells, and urinary frequency. Some symptoms may even go away as the body compensates to the loss of estrogen. Many women mistakenly think that if they just suffer with the hot flashes till they’re gone, they can go back to their normal life! Instead of putting back the missing estrogen, women commonly take antidepressants, sleeping pills and tranquilizers.
The next set of problems occurs when vital tissues literally start falling apart because of estrogen deprivation! Some like sexual dysfunction and urinary frequency or incontinence occur within six months, but others like dementia, heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease can take years to develop!
Menopause affects every woman differently. Your only symptom may be your period stopping. You may have other symptoms, too. Many symptoms at this time of life are because of just getting older. But some are due to approaching menopause. Menopause-related symptoms you might have during perimenopause include:Changes in pattern of periods (can be shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, more or less time between periods) Hot flashes (sudden rush of heat in upper body) Night sweats (hot flashes that happen while you sleep), often followed by a chill Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats) Vaginal dryness Mood changes, feeling crabby (probably because of lack of sleep) Trouble focusing, feeling mixed-up or confused Hair loss or thinning on your head, more hair growth on your face
When you visit your doctor, take along a diary about what's happening with your period. For a few months before your visit, record when your period starts and stops each day, and indicate whether it is light of heavy. Also note any other symptoms you have.
This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.