Is Menopause A Disease?
- The term "menopause" actually refers to the day when a woman has her last period. Menopause is confirmed when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a period. Thus, menopause technically lasts only one day, and on average occurs at age 51.
- "Perimenopause" refers to the time leading up to menopause, usually beginning in a woman's late forties, and is considered over one year after a woman's last period. Perimenopause literally means "around menopause" and can last 6 years or longer, depending on the individual. Perimenopause is the time of a woman's life that is usually referred to as "menopause" and is associated with negative symptoms.
- "Premenopause" is the time between a woman's first menstruation (puberty) and the onset of menopause.
- "Postmenopause" refers to the years after menopause.
The most common symptoms of menopause include:
- Shorter and less frequent menstrual periods (see, it's not all bad!)
- Hot flashes (these are thought to be a result of the hypothalamus, the organ that controls body temperature, becoming confused. If this organ receives the signal that a person is too warm, blood vessels near the surface of the skin enlarge, causing reddened skin and a feeling of heat. This may also result in perspiration. Some women experience an increased heartbeat and a sensation of being chilled once the hot flash subsides.)
- Problems sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
In the vast majority of cases, no treatment is needed. In fact, up to 30% of women experience no notable symptoms at all. However, if you are experiencing discomfort, there are many at home treatments. Generally, eating right and getting enough exercise will help alleviate many of your symptoms, but if you have particular problems, the following advice may help you:
- Cool compresses can help with hot flashes.
- Avoid becoming overheated by external sources: turn the heat down and don't sit by the fire for too long.
- Hot or spicy foods and alcohol can trigger hot flashes, so avoid these if possible.
- Dress in layers so you can remove clothing when you get too hot.
- Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking has been associated with increased hot flashes.
- Usually exercise will help with insomnia, but avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime.
- Yoga and deep breathing exercises can help you relax.
- Avoid all caffeine. Caffeine can take up to 36 hours to metabolize out of your system.
- Make sure your bedroom is totally dark. Light can stimulate the brain, keeping you awake.
- Use a water-based personal lubricant during sex.
- There are many natural creams or lotions on the market to address vaginal dryness.