Menopause is defined by the loss of ovarian function and absence of menstrual period for at least a year. The average age of menopause is 50. If menopause is experienced before the age of 40, it is called premature or early menopause and calls for medical attention. It occurs in about 1% of female population. Menopause transition years are called climacterium or perimenopause, and are the period of time before and after the loss of ovarian function.
Most common and bothersome symptom following menopause is hot flushes. They first appear during perimenopause, and the majority of women experience them for many years. Fast heartbeat, vaginal dryness, loss of sexual drive, weakness, vertigo, faint, headaches, sleep disturbances, skin wrinkles, mood swings, dysuria and breast atrophy are other distressing effects. Some of these effects are related to hypoestrogenaemia, the sudden drop in estrogen levels due to changes in the thermoregulatory centre of the hypothalamus.
Menopause is diagnosed clinically and is confirmed by a hormone test. High levels of FSH (follicular stimulation hormone) in conjunction with estrogen deficiency are evidence confirming the permanent cessation of ovarian function. In order to treat menopausal symptoms and prevent possible future complications, hormone replacement treatment is recommended.
Rare menopausal symptoms, such as vasomotor disturbances, are dealt with estrogen administration, which begins a year after the woman’s last period and continues for five to ten years. This treatment prevents loss of bone density and reduces the risk of spinal fractures or osteoporosis.
Besides hormone supplements, symptoms may be reduced with a well-balanced diet, weight loss, exercise, refraining from smoking, and calcium and vitamin intake.