Understanding Menopause

Menopause is diagnosed once a woman does not have her menstrual period for at least 12 months. During the years leading up to this point, a woman may also experience changes in her monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms. This period is known as perimenopause, or the menopausal transition.
For the majority of women, menopause usually begins around the ages of 45 and 55. It lasts an average of seven years, but it can be as long as 14 years. During this time, the body's production of estrogen and progesterone will vary widely. Bones will also become less dense, leaving women more vulnerable to fractures.

Symptoms of Menopause

Most women will experience some irregularity in their periods before they end. However, signs and symptoms will largely vary among women. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Irregular periods
  • Mood changes
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep problems
It is normal and even expected for women to skip periods during perimenopause. Periods may sometimes skip a month and then return, or skip several months and then start again for a few months. It is also possible for periods to happen on shorter cycles, making them closer together. It is essential for women to realize that pregnancy is still possible during these times. As such, it is important for women to see a doctor whenever they are unsure if they are experiencing perimenopause or pregnancy.

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Causes of Menopause

Menopause most frequently occurs due to naturally declining reproductive hormones or aging. Once a woman approaches her late 30s, her ovaries naturally begin producing less estrogen and progesterone (the hormones responsible for regulating menstruation) and her fertility will decline. However, surgical removal of the ovaries (also known as an oophorectomy) may also result in menopause.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also induce menopause and cause menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes during or shortly after treatment. Additionally, approximately 1% of women experience premature menopause, or menopause before age 40. This may be due to primary ovarian insufficiency or for no apparent reason at all.

Diagnosing Menopause

Any woman experiencing menopause symptoms should see a healthcare professional right away, especially if they are 45 years of age or younger. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a new blood test known as the PicoAMH Elisa diagnostic test to determine whether a woman has entered or is getting close to entering menopause.

The PicoAMH Elisa diagnostic test may be especially helpful to women with signs of perimenopause, which comes with various adverse health impacts. Alternatively, a blood test can measure the level of certain hormones in the blood, typically FSH and a form of estrogen known as estradiol. Though saliva tests and over-the-counter (OTC) tests are also available, they are generally unreliable and expensive compared to the labs we can order.

Menopause Treatment

Some women can endure menopause without treatment. Others, however, may have severe symptoms that affect their quality of life. Such women may want to consider hormone therapy, particularly if they are under the age of 60 or within 10 years of the onset of menopause. Hormone therapy can help with:

  • Hot flashes
  • Flushing
  • Night sweats
  • Osteoporosis
  • Vaginal atrophy
There are two basic types of menopause hormone therapy: estrogen-only therapy and estrogen plus progesterone therapy. Estrogen-only therapy is typically prescribed to women without a uterus due to a hysterectomy. In contrast, estrogen plus progesterone therapy is supplemented with progesterone to protect women with a uterus against endometrial cancer.

Call Us Today

Living with menopausal symptoms can be tough. We at Nuceria Health can help. Call us today at (305) 398-4370 to schedule an appointment or learn more about our services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Menopause is a highly individualized experience, with some women experiencing hardly any symptoms at all. Others, however, may undergo seemingly every listed symptom in the book. These symptoms may last anywhere from a few months to several years. In any case, they are caused by changes in the female hormones known as estrogen and progesterone. This may happen naturally (through aging) or be induced (through surgery, et cetera).

If you have a hysterectomy but keep your ovaries, you may not reach menopause right away. However, since your uterus is removed, you will likely stop having periods and you will no longer be able to get pregnant. Still, your ovaries may continue making hormones, so you may be asymptomatic; additionally, natural menopause may set in a year or two earlier than expected. On the other hand, if you have both ovaries removed at the same time as your hysterectomy, you will reach menopause immediately. This operation is called a bilateral oophorectomy.

Avoiding certain triggers can help you prevent hot flashes. These include alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and stress. You may also want to keep a fan around and take deep, slow breaths when you begin feeling a hot flash coming on.

Yes. Sleep disturbances are a common side effect of menopause, with up to half of women aged 40 to 59 reporting poor sleep quality. You can attempt to counteract this by improving your sleep hygiene. Possible measures to take include avoiding large meals, smoking, and working right before bed; being physically active during the day; avoiding naps; keeping the bedroom quiet, dark, and cool; and establishing a bedtime routine.

Hormone therapy is commonly used to help women counteract the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. However, it is not the right treatment for everyone. We can evaluate your unique risk profile.