The average age of menopause is between 52 and 55. However, menopause may occur anywhere between and 45 and 60. Your age of menopause is determined by genetics, medical conditions and lifestyle choices. Many women may begin to experience symptoms of menopause four to six years prior their last period. This period of time is referred to as "perimenopause". Whereas, menopause is defined as one year with no menses.
During the perimenopause period, the menstrual cycle becomes less predictable. The cycle may be one week early or two to three weeks late. A woman may also begin to experience symptoms of decreasing estrogen production (menopause symptoms). These symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and depression
- Heart palpitations
- Vaginal dryness
Some woman may experience memory loss or fogginess and loss of concentration. However, it is felt that these symptoms may be due to lack of quality sleep.
Relief of Menopause Symptoms
Menopausal symptoms can be relieved with hormone therapy in both perimenopausal and menopausal women. The hormone therapy includes combinations of estrogen, progesterone and sometimes testosterone. Every woman experiences menopause differently. I recommend hormone therapy to women with intolerable symptoms. Individualizing each woman's treatment is important. Your hormone therapy should treat all your menopausal symptoms with little side effects at the lowest dose possible.
There are also over-the-counter remedies like black cohosh, red clover, and Vitamin E. The studies on these herbal remedies have shown no more effectiveness than a placebo. Therefore, The American College of OB GYN does not recommend these treatments. For your safety, I recommend discussing any of these treatments with your gynecologist.
Talk to Your Doctor
Many women are fearful of estrogen due to the scare of breast cancer. Most gynecologist will recommend and prescribe hormone therapy for the first five years after menopause. I will prescribe hormone therapy for symptomatic women until their symptoms resolve. I have patients in their 60s and 70s who still successfully take hormone therapy for symptoms.
There are some medical conditions that prevent some women from hormone therapy - personal history of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease and clotting disorders. However, your gynecologist knows you best, so I recommend making an appointment to discuss your choices.