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Symptoms

During the menopausal years, some women experience multiple symptoms while others show no reaction or minimal reactions that go unnoticed. The list of symptoms associated with menopause is long and may be daunting, but fortunately no woman experiences the whole range.

Peri-Menopause

One of the first signs to occur is a change in your periods. They become less regular and sometimes lighter. Some women however experience heavy bleeding, lasting for 10 or more days. They may even have spotting between periods.You may have to consult your doctor for these problems.

Vasomotor Symptoms

One of the first signs to occur is a change in your periods. They become less regular and sometimes lighter. Some women however experience heavy bleeding, lasting for 10 or more days. They may even have spotting between periods.You may have to consult your doctor for these problems.

Hot Flushes

Hot flushes are experienced by more than 85% of menopausal women, although their frequency and severity can vary greatly from person to person.During a hot flush, a woman can perspire so profusely that perspiration runs down her face, neck and back, her temperature will rise, her heart will beat faster and she may experience palpitations. It usually lasts for 3-5 minutes. Sometimes she may even faint, though this is rare. The discomfort experienced during a hot flush is unique. Hot flushes occur as the brain decides that the body is overheated. Two of three women may suffer hot flushes well before the last menstrual period, but most have increased frequency at menopause and continue for five to six years.

Psychological

Despite the clinical impressions that there are considerable psychological benefits from HRT, there is only clear evidence for amelioration of psychological symptoms (including improvement in cognitive function) in women who have undergone a surgical menopause. Otherwise in the natural menopause it remains unclear which, if any, non-sexual psychological symptoms respond directly to estrogen except as a secondary response to reduction in physical symptoms. Overall, it has to be said that there is little scientific backing for hormonal treatment of psychological problems on their own around the time of the natural menopause. In most cases psychological treatment or counseling will be more appropriate than HRT.

Urogenital Atrophy

Urogenital problems are very common during menopause, yet only four of ten women consult their doctor for it. Anatomically the vagina and the lower genital tract lie close together separated by a few layers of cells. Lack of estrogen causes these cells to become thin and dry.Urinary symptoms include discomfort in passing urine, frequent and urgent urination, there may also be some dribbling because the sphincter muscle guarding the bladder exit becomes weak due to low estrogen levels. Urine escapes from the bladder on coughing, laughing or carrying heavy weights and is called stress urinary incontinence. You may also experience genital dryness and itching and vaginal soreness particularly during or after intercourse.

Stomach and Bowel Complaints

Bloating with abdominal distention can occur during menopause. As we age small pockets of tissue may balloon from the bowel causing a condition called diverticula. Food gets lodged in these diverticula, becomes stale and produces large amounts of gas causing the abdomen to distend. The female hormones also affect the speed of movement of the food in the intestines. Progesterone reduces movement so bowel motions become infrequent, dry and pebble-like, while estrogen speeds them up. Due to lack of estrogen after menopause constipation is also a common symptom.

Muscle and Joint Symptoms

Collagen is a protein that provides scaffolding for every tissue in the body and when it begins to disintegrate at menopause, muscles loose their bulk, strength and coordination, and joints become stiff. Muscles become stiff and sore after exercise and joints swell so that their mobility gets restricted. Osteoporosis (called the brittle bone disease) causes aches and pains all over the body especially in the upper back due to thinning of the vertebral bones.

Collagen Deficiency Symptoms

  • Skin - Dryness, wrinkles, flaking, bruises easily, wounds heal slowly, patches of brown pigmentation, prominent veins.
  • Nails - Brittleness, white spots, splinter hemorrhages.
  • Eyes - Dryness, dark circles under eyes, small yellow lumps of fat on the white part of the eyes, night vision deteriorates, red blood vessels around the corner of the eyes.
  • Gums - Bleeding and sponginess, recession leaving tooth roots exposed, infection and periodontal disease, which causes bad breadth.
  • Hair - Dullness, dryness, oiliness, split ends, poor growth, thin patches, dermatitis of the scalp, hair loss, dandruff.
  • Mouth - Cracks on the corners of the mouth, mouth ulcers that are slow to heal.
  • Tongue - The sides become scalloped, and the tongue becomes thinner and smoother.

Breast Symptoms

Most women experience breast discomfort premenstrually due to fluid retention in the breast tissue. This discomfort may develop into a more severe pain called mastalgia after 40. This is usually non-cyclical and can occur at any time in the month. This is a benign condition, however breast cancer should be ruled out. Evening primrose oil is found to be useful. Saturated fatty oils aggravate the problem and cutting down on their amount in diet helps.

Weight Gain

The clinical definition of Osteoporosis is "a condition where there is less normal bone than expected for a woman's age, with an increased risk of fracture." It is a painful, crippling and life-threatening condition and is the single most important health hazard for women with menopause. In its early stages it has no obvious symptoms so women may be unaware, but because of its life-threatening nature every woman should be made aware of it and prevent osteoporosis from occurring.

Cardiovascular Effects

During reproductive years, women are "protected" from coronary heart disease, hence they lag behind men in the incidence of coronary heart disease by 10 years and in myocardial infarction and sudden death by 20 years. A significant contribution to this protection can be due to higher high density liporotein (HDL) levels in younger women, an effect of estrogen.The average HDL-cholesterol in women is 55-60 mg/dl, a decrease of 10 mg/dl increases risk of coronary heart disease by 40-50%.

Total and low density cholesterol (bad lipids) levels are lower in premenopausal women compared to men and in post-menopausal women they rise rapidly. After menopause the risk of coronary heart disease doubles for women as the atherogenic lipids levels are higher than menThe ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol is optimum (3.4) at ages 25 to 34 and increases to 4.7 at ages 75 to 89 years. When the ratio increases to 7.5 women have the same risk of coronary heart disease as men.Estrogen also has favourable effect on the inner lining of blood vessels which keeps vessels dilated and prevents thrombosis.

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