You could argue that the physical and mental changes that occur during menopause aren’t really “symptoms.” The term is usually associated with a disease, which menopause is not. Also, it is often hard to say which changes are a direct result of a drop in hormone levels and which are natural consequences of aging.
Hot flashes can be extremely troubling for the 15% of women who have the most severe form. Women who have had surgical menopause or those who are taking tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer are often in this unfortunate group.
Some women say they feel agitated or unsettled right before a hot flash occurs. Women experience hot flashes differently. Some feel warm; others complain of burning up. A lot of women feel chills afterward. Hot flashes that occur during sleep, called night sweats, may disrupt sleep, causing fatigue and mood changes.
TREATING HOT FLASHES
Some possible triggers of hot flashes are hot beverages, spicy food, warm air temperatures, stressful situations, alcohol, caffeine, and some medications. If you can identify your own triggers, you may be able to avoid some hot flashes.
Go to bed with a frozen cold pack under your pillow, and turn the pillow over when you wake up. Keep a change of nightclothes next to your bed so that you can change easily if you wake up soaked.
Decreased estrogen causes the vaginal lining to thin and vaginal secretions to diminish. The vagina also becomes shorter and narrower. The result often is dryness and irritation, which can make sexual intercourse unpleasant.
TREATING VAGINAL CHANGES
A simple vaginal lubricant such as Astroglide or Silk-E may help treat vaginal dryness. A vaginal moisturizer such as Replens may also be helpful. Estrogen treatments applied directly to the vagina in the form of creams, rings, and tablets are quite effective. Also, experts say regular sexual stimulation can help keep the vagina healthy by maintaining its elasticity.
One concern for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women is knowing whether irregular uterine bleeding is normal. Most women notice normal changes in their cycle as they approach menopause.
Consult your physician if any of the following situations occur:
- You have a few periods that last three days longer than usual.
- You have a few menstrual cycles that are shorter than 21 days.
- You bleed after intercourse.
- You have heavy monthly bleeding (soaking a sanitary product every hour for more than a day).
- You have spotting (bleeding between periods).
- You have bleeding that occurs outside the normal pattern associated with hormone use.
Some other symptoms that you may experience:
- Dry Skin and Hair
- Urinary inconsistency
- Weight loss or gain
- Low Sexual Drive
- Mood swings