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Menopause Basics

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What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?

Most women approaching menopause or who are postmenopausal will experience hot flashes, a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over the upper body and is often accompanied by blushing and some sweating. The severity of hot flashes varies from mild in most women to severe in others.

Other common symptoms experienced around the time of menopause include:

Not all women get all of these symptoms.

How Do I Know When I Am Going Through Menopause?

Either you'll suspect the approach of menopause on your own, or your doctor will, based on your reported symptoms. Two very simple tests can accurately determine what's going on and what stage of menopause you're in: A blood test that detects your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, which will dramatically rise as your ovaries begin to shut down, and a Pap-like smear. The smear, a sample taken from your vaginal walls, can be analyzed to check for vaginal ''atrophy,'' the thinning and drying-out of your vagina. With the approach of menopause, the cells lining the vagina will not contain as much estrogen.

It helps if you keep track of your periods and chart them as they become irregular. Your menstrual pattern will be an added clue to your doctor about whether you are pre- or perimenopausal.

What Long-Term Health Problems Are Associated With Menopause?

The loss of estrogen associated with menopause has been linked to a number of health problems that become more common as women age.

After menopause, women are more likely to suffer from:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease
  • Poor bladder and bowel function
  • Poor brain function (increased risk of Alzheimer's disease)
  • Poor skin elasticity (increased wrinkling)
  • Poor muscle power and tone
  • Some deterioration in vision, such as from cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and macular degeneration (breakdown of the tiny spot in the center of the retina that is the center of vision)

There are a number of treatments to consider that can help reduce risks that are associated with these conditions.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 05, 2012
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