Menopause is the time of life when a woman’s menstrual cycle ends. Although menopause is a natural part of biology, the physical symptoms that go along with menopause can be severe enough to have an impact on your daily life.
The University of Kansas Health System focuses on addressing the full spectrum of menopause symptoms, both physical and emotional. Whether you’re experiencing mild menopause symptoms or dramatic changes, we can help.
What is menopause?
Menopause is diagnosed when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without her normal period. This typically happens when a woman is in her 40s or 50s. In the United States, 51 is the average age for menopause.
Before menopause, it’s common to experience perimenopause, which can have many signs and symptoms that are similar to menopause. Perimenopause can last for several years. There are many ways that the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause can be reduced if they’re bothersome, ranging from simple lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy.
Types of menopause
Doctors categorize menopause according to 3 different stages.
While menopause typically occurs as a natural part of the aging process, there are other reasons women can go through menopause as well. Removal of the ovaries due to cancer or for other reasons can trigger premature menopause. This effect is known as surgical menopause, which happens immediately after surgery rather than more gradually over the course of several years as during natural menopause.
Menopause symptoms and risks
The signs and symptoms of menopause include:
- Dry skin
- Hair thinning
- Hot flashes
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Loss of breast volume
- Mood changes, including anxiety and depression
- Night sweats
- Slower metabolism
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
These symptoms can occur during perimenopause as well, and many may continue in postmenopausal women. After menopause, the risks for some medical conditions increase, including the risks for developing heart disease, osteoporosis and sexual discomfort.
Menopause diagnosis and screening
Your doctor can diagnose menopause based on your medical history and description of your symptoms. In some cases, your doctor may order blood tests to check your hormone levels or thyroid function.
Treatment is not needed to control menopause, although many women opt for therapies to help manage the symptoms of menopause. Some menopause treatment options your doctor may recommend include:
Hormone replacement therapy can help relieve hot flashes by increasing estrogen levels. Although there are some increased health risks associated with long-term hormone therapy, your doctor will help you make an informed decision about the treatment that’s right for you.
Low-dose antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help manage hot flashes, especially for women who are not good candidates for estrogen treatment or who already take an antidepressant.
Other oral medications, which are normally used to treat different medical conditions like seizures or high blood pressure, may offer some relief from hot flashes.
Transdermal hormone therapy can be applied in a cream or gel, or as a transdermal patch. Research suggests that transdermal hormone therapy may carry fewer risks compared to oral hormone replacement therapy.
Vaginal estrogen can be applied internally to help relieve dryness and discomfort. Vaginal estrogen releases only a small amount of estrogen directly to the vaginal tissue.
Hormone replacement therapy used to be recommended more widely for women with menopause. However, the current approach is to recommend hormone replacement only for women with significant hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms. Today’s menopause treatments also focus more on short-term hormone therapy with frequent evaluations by both patient and doctor.
In addition to medications that treat the symptoms of menopause, your doctor might also suggest medication to treat or prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
Why choose us for menopause treatment?
As academic and teaching faculty members at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, our physicians stay current with the latest developments in the area of menopausal hormone therapy. Women experiencing perimenopause, menopause or postmenopausal symptoms can benefit from the knowledge and insight our physicians pass along to medical students every day.