Menopause

Menopause marks the end of a woman's menstrual periods. A woman has officially gone through menopause when it has been one year since her last period.

In the months to years before menopause—a time called perimenopause—the production of hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle changes.

In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51. But there is a wide range: some women have their last period in their 40s, others in their late 50s.

Anything that damages the ovaries or stops estrogen production can cause menopause to occur earlier. These include:

  • smoking
  • chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • surgery to remove the ovaries

Symptoms of menopause

Each woman’s experience of perimenopause and menopause is unique. Common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:

  • irregular periods
  • hot flashes and night sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • disturbed sleep
  • urinary incontinence

Women are also more likely to develop depression for the first time or have it recur. Some women report trouble with memory and the ability to concentrate.

Easing menopause symptoms

There are effective ways to deal with some of the symptoms of menopause.

Irregular periods. Low-dose birth control pills are an option for nonsmokers. Use of progesterone-like hormones also can help control heavy, irregular bleeding.

Vaginal dryness. Over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers can relieve dryness.

Hot flashes. Many women can manage hot flashes with self-help approaches like beginning deep-breathing exercises at the beginning of a hot flash, wearing loose, comfortable clothing and dressing in layers, keeping the work place and home —especially the bedroom — cool.

Taking estrogen or other hormones can be safe and effective for short-term relief of symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats—provided it’s prescribed with a woman’s individual health in mind. Hormone therapy is also effective for preventing osteoporosis in women at high risk for breaking bones.

Menopause Articles

A silent condition may be taking a toll on your health

Prediabetes is a common condition, and often goes undetected. People with this condition have a number of health risks, including a greater chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke. In addition, they are more likely to develop diabetes, which can lead to additional health problems, such as kidney disease and a higher rate of infection. Testing for prediabetes can find the condition early and potentially prevent it from progressing to diabetes. (Locked) More »

Rosacea can flare at menopause

Rosacea is a skin condition that affects some 16 million Americans, causing persistent redness, pimples, and dilated blood vessels on the face. Flushing makes the condition worse, and it can be exacerbated by hot flashes at menopause. Doctors typically diagnose rosacea by performing a skin examination and taking a medical history. The condition is treatable by avoiding triggers and using medications to reduce redness and swelling. (Locked) More »

In search of sleep

Many factors, including hot flashes, mood disorders, and sleep apnea, can disrupt sleep in women who are going through menopause. Getting treatment for chronic sleep problems is crucial to long-term health. Women who don’t get enough sleep may be at higher risk for a number of medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and dementia. More »

Take control of rising cholesterol at menopause

High cholesterol can become a problem for some women after menopause. Managing the condition by making lifestyle changes and in some cases by taking medications can help prevent heart attack and stroke in many instances. Even small changes, such as losing a small amount of weight and adding a few 15-minute exercise intervals each day can help make a big difference in your health over time. (Locked) More »

Menopause and mental health

Changes in female hormone levels can bring about mood changes or mild mood disorders during perimenopause and the transition into menopause. However, this is also a time when life circumstances or physical changes can play a role in mood shifts. Women should be aware that this may occur and be certain to bring bothersome mood changes to the attention of their doctors. More »

Could your breast implants be making you sick?

Many women are reporting symptoms they believe are associated with their breast implants. Sometimes called breast implant illness, this combination of vague symptoms—such as hair loss, fatigue, anxiety, and depression—is also associated with a number of other conditions, including menopause, thyroid problems, and autoimmune conditions. Researchers are now working with patient advocacy groups to better understand the problem. Experts recommend that women understand the potential risks and benefits of breast implants before having the surgical procedure. (Locked) More »

The growing problem of drug-resistant UTIs

A growing number of urinary tract infections are now resistant to common antibiotics. This makes them harder to treat and raises the potential that women will develop complications, such as kidney or blood infections. Women can help protect themselves from UTIs by following good hygiene practices and staying well hydrated. (Locked) More »

What’s causing bladder pain or burning?

Bladder pain and burning with urination affect more women than men. The symptoms can be caused by many conditions, such as upper or lower urinary tract infections, genitourinary syndrome of menopause, vaginitis, sexually transmitted infections, and interstitial cystitis (bladder pain syndrome). When symptoms occur, one should see a primary care doctor or gynecologist, and possibly a urologist or urogynecologist. Depending on the condition, treatment can include the use of antibiotics, vaginal estrogen cream, or bladder training. (Locked) More »