October 18th 2011 is World Menopause Day. It is a time to dwell on understanding the health-care issues of women, particularly older women.
Menopause is usually never addressed and it is distressing to find that there are so many misconceptions regarding this natural phenomenon. World Menopause Day (WMD) would be an apt day to address these issues and to increase more awareness regarding this unavoidable phase in a woman's life.
AdvertisementWhat is menopause?
Menopause is that period in a woman's life when her menstruation tapers off and gradually comes to an end. It is a transition period, when her ovaries stop producing eggs, and when her estrogen and progesterone -producing capacity is remarkably reduced.
Menopause occurs naturally and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.After menopause (postmenopause) a person is no longer at the risk of falling pregnant if she has no menses continually for one year.
Once a woman attains menopause she is tormented by a few symptoms such as hot flashes, palpitations, night sweats, mood swings, headaches, sleeplessness and forgetfulness but the gradual decrease of estrogen allows her to get acclimatized to the changes.
As a result of low estrogen, changes will be brought about which may affect a woman's life particularly her sexual life. The walls of her vagina become thinner, drier and less elastic. She may not lubricate as she did before and her vaginal secretions become watery. The outer labia becomes thinner and atrophied. Due to these reasons, a woman's interest in sex life may decrease and she may not respond to sexual stimuli as she used to.
A simple blood or urine test carried out to evaluate the levels of Estradiol, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing hormone (LH) will help to diagnose menopause.
Treatment of menopause symptoms is usually through Hormone therapy (HT), involving administration of estrogen. HT comes with its side effects such as breast and uterine cancer, stroke, clot and heart attacks. If a woman with uterus is administered estrogen as part of HT, she may need to take progesterone as well to prevent endometrial cancer. This is not necessary for women without uterus.
Patient's medical history must be considered and the pros and cons discussed, before employing HT as a treatment option. Other medications, that are alternatives to HT, are also available.
A menopausal woman may also have other issues like low bone density, which increases her risk for osteoporosis. Carrying out exams like mammograms and Pap smears may also be beneficial.
Any post-menopausal bleeding must be immediately addressed by a health specialist as it may be a sign of cancer.
Menopause cannot be prevented. The only thing that can be done is to relive the symptoms.
Some lifestyle tips to handle menopause symptoms-
• Avoid caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol
• Eat soy foods
• Take your regular dose of calcium and vitamin D
• Dress lightly
• Practice slow breathing during hot flashes
• Practice a relaxation technique such as yoga everyday.
• Engage in sex whenever possible
• Exercise well particularly kegel exercises that are pelvic floor strengthening
There is life after menopause. Don't forget to feel it, love it and live it!
"Too often the distressing symptoms associated with the menopause are not taken seriously enough. The stresses caused by these symptoms can have a significant effect on not only a woman's life, but also the lives of those close to her, over a period of years. A woman can't just "grin and bear it" - if only it were that simple. These are troubling symptoms caused by the menopause, which lead to physical and psychological problems in everyday life. Women need to realise that they don't need to put up with this. For most women there are ways of overcoming these problems, and a woman going through a difficult menopause should make sure that she talks this over with her doctor to find the best solution for her".
International Menopause Society President, Dr Tobie de Villiers commented.