Menopause

From the Greek Men – month pausis – stop. Menopause is the end of a woman’s fertile age, and is marked when a woman stops having her period for one year for no other medical reason. It is a natural part of ageing and occurs in the early fifties. It is brought about by changes in the reproductive and hormone system.

It is typically preceded by irregular periods, as well as other symptoms such as hot flushes, sweating, palpitations, insomnia, mood swings, headaches, impaired memory, vaginal dryness and sexual dysfunction, urinary problems, depression and irritability. Symptoms tend to improve within a year.

Due to the ageing egg supply the cycles are less ovulatory and there are more hormone fluctuations which cause the signs and symptoms. When hormone levels decline, the menstrual cycle stops. An early menopause can occur if ovaries have been surgically removed or by undergoing radio and chemotherapy.

With menopause the risk of osteoporosis (bone thinning) increases and the risk of heart disease are double. Hence a healthy lifestyle is crucial.

If symptomatic, treatment is available; however this has possible side-effects. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can be taken topically or orally, but it is associated with increased breast cancer risk, deep-vein thrombosis and gall baldder disease. it is therefore to be used only for short-term relief of menopausal symptoms or in the cases of early menopause. The benefits of HRT include increased bone density and decreased risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer. There is specific treatment for osteoporosis.