Menopause – Impact across age groups and treatments provided.
Menopause is an important biomarker that indicates the loss of fertility and the woman’s entry into mid-life. This also heralds the beginning of several physiological changes and various health conditions that could lead to long-term diseases if not treated in time. Healthcare experts recommend lifestyle changes, treatments and supplements to help women get through this crucial phase and enter their post-menopause years.
Menopause is medically defined as the condition when there is no menstrual bleeding for a period of 12 months. Usually menopause age is between the ages of 40 and 58 and the average age is 51. This however varies from region to region and many women also go through menopause in their 40s. In India, women reach menopause earlier than their western counterparts. If a woman reaches menopause before 40, then it is considered premature menopause.
The duration prior to menopause is termed perimenopause, a period that could be between 4 and 8 years. This is the stage before the woman’s last period. Both puberty and perimenopause involve hormonal changes and body transitions that can take place over several years. There is a connection between hormones and menopause and studies show that these changes begin first leading to perimenopause which lasts longer in women where the transition began earlier.
When in her fertile years, the woman’s body produces hormones estrogen and progesterone, an integral part of period cycles, ovulation and pregnancy. These also help keep the bones healthy. As she gets older, there is a drop in the production of these hormones which brings about significant changes in the body. As the woman reaches perimenopause there is a fluctuation in menopause hormones leading to symptoms such as mood swings, disturbed sleep, hot flashes, joint pains, fatigue and vaginal dryness.
Diseases and treatments for menopause
Menopause is a difficult period for a woman where she experiences distinct physiological changes. While it has several symptoms associated with it, there is a possibility of long term diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiac disease, cognitive decline and sexual issues. It is essential that timely treatment including lifestyle modification, supplements and HRT are provided to manage the situation.
One of the most common treatments offered to address menopause symptoms is HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Here specialists may suggest on replacing hormones estrogen and progesterone which drop in levels at menopause. HRT is administered either combined (estrogen and progesterone), or as estrogen-only HRT. Healthcare experts could recommend different hormones and ways of taking it – tablets, patches or gel.
Other treatment approaches include addressing specific conditions such as disturbed sleep, mood swings, fatigue, joint aches or vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness is a common condition that results in frequent urination and urinary tract infections besides causing burning and pain during sexual intercourse. Current medications to address this include lubricants and moisturisers that work to reduce friction in the vaginal canal. Available as OTC products, these offer temporary relief and contain ingredients that are not well-tolerated.
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