Menopause is defined as the period in time when the ovaries cease functioning and menstrual periods stop. Several years before the onset of menopause, the production of hormones in a woman’s body begins to decline. This is called perimenopause or climacteric, meaning the time from when menstrual periods start to diminish up to a year after the final menstrual period.
Menopause is a phase of a normal woman’s life, one that more than 4,000 women enter each day. In North America the average age of menopause is 51.
Common symptoms of menopause include:
- Reduced fertility
- Changes in menstrual periods
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Emotional changes
- Libido changes
Most of these symptoms will stop after menopause is completed.
However, menopause also increases the risk of contracting heart disease or osteoporosis, which continue after menopause is completed. Although not associated with menopause, cancer is associated with advancing age in women.
Perimenopause is a natural stage of life, therefore it does not automatically require any kind of medical treatment at all. However, in cases where the physical, mental, and emotional effects of perimenopause are strong enough that they significantly disrupt the everyday life of the woman experiencing them, treatment aimed at alleviating symptoms rather than altering menopause may be appropriate.
- Lifestyle changes
- Nonprescription medications
- Prescription therapies, including hormone replacement therapy
- Lubricants for vaginal dryness
- Antidepressants for emotional changes
- Preventive medications or supplements for chronic post-menopausal conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease