Menopause is the cessation of a woman's menstrual cycle, and it's defined as 12 consecutive months of not having a period. The time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause or premenopause. Menopause occurs as a result of the natural decline of estrogen and progesterone that usually begins around age 40. Perimenopause can last for years until the menstrual cycle stops for good, usually in a woman's late 40s or 50s.
Perimenopause symptoms can vary significantly from one woman to another, with some women experiencing very few or very mild symptoms and others having symptoms that are so severe, they can interfere with daily functioning. Symptoms can also vary over time as hormone levels continue to fluctuate and decline. Some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause include:
Once menopause has occurred, women may be prone to issues like osteoporosis (“brittle” bones), heart disease and other chronic health issues.
Although there is no “cure” for menopause, the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause can be managed so women can lead more comfortable lives and reduce their risks of serious medical issues. Treatment typically includes hormone replacement therapy using bioidentical hormones that have the same chemical structure as the hormones naturally produced by the body. Some symptoms like insomnia or vaginal dryness may be treated with other products designed specifically for those issues. Treatment begins with a careful assessment of the symptoms and a thorough exam to ensure menopause is the cause of those symptoms and to rule out other possible causes.
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