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First Signs of Menopause

written by: Robin Hawkins • edited by: lrohner • updated: 1/13/2011

Menopause is a naturally occurring phase in every woman’s life. The first signs of menopause are sometimes noticeable before the true menopausal stage is reached. The following takes a look at what menopause is, the first signs of menopause and various ways people are treated for it.

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    What is Menopause?

    Menopause is the stage in a woman’s life when her ovaries no longer produce eggs that function. This signals the end of menstruation. When menstruation ceases for a year or longer, a woman has officially entered the menopausal stage. Oftentimes this occurs when a woman reaches her late 40s to early 50s.

    The first signs of menopause can occur well before the menopausal state is reached. This transition time is referred to as perimenopause. These first signs of menopause are indications of fluctuating hormones. Changes in the monthly cycle, including menstruation coming early or being delayed, and more intense symptoms of PMS are some of the first signs that the body is transitioning into menopause.

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    Symptoms of Menopause

    Although the first signs of menopause vary from woman to woman, there are many common types of symptoms that menopausal women report. These can include irritability, mood swings, vaginal dryness during intercourse, night sweats and hot flashes.

    Of these symptoms of menopause, hot flashes are the most frequently reported. This symptom seems to occur in about two-thirds of perimenopausal women and in almost all women who are in the menopausal stage.

    Hot flashes are waves of heat than may be accompanied by sweating, rapid heart rate, a flushed face and chills. Hot flashes that occur at night are referred to as night sweats. These signs of menopause can interfere with sleep patterns.

    While many women do experience hot flashes as a menopausal symptom, the severity and duration of these hot flashes tend to vary from person to person. Some women may experience these waves for just a short time at the onset of menopause, while other women may experience hot flashes for the rest of their lives.

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    Treating Symptoms of Menopause

    Avoiding the symptoms of menopause may not be possible, but it is thought that certain triggers can set a hot flash in motion or increase the intensity of a hot flash. There are lifestyle changes that may help to manage the severity of menopausal symptoms. These include:

    • Stay cool. Wear comfortable clothes in a cotton blend.
    • Try to avoid stress, caffeine, alcohol and cigarette smoke.
    • Exercise on a daily basis.
    • Practice slow, deep breathing exercises every day and at the onset of a hot flash.
    • Chill pillows and use fans at night.

    Some women have chosen to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a short-term medical treatment for menopause symptoms. HRT may help to alleviate the symptoms associated with menopause, but not without its own risks. It is important to talk to your doctor when considering HRT as a treatment for symptoms of menopause.

    Other prescription treatments for menopause include birth control pills and antidepressants. Over-the-counter treatments which may help alleviate some menopause symptoms include Vitamin-B complex, Vitamin-E and ibuprofen.

    Sources:

    Women’s Health: “Early Signs of Menopause”: http://www.womens-health-questions.com/early-signs-of-menopause.html

    WebMD: “Menopause Guide”: www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-symptoms-types