You have already heard about menopause around you, but apart from the few ailments it causes, you don't know much about the subject. Who is affected, how to detect it, what are the symptoms and how to treat them? Here are all the answers to your questions.
1 . What is menopause?
This natural phenomenon occurs when a woman's egg stocks are depleted, and the production of sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) stops. Menopause therefore marks the end of menstruation and the reproductive period. A woman is said to be truly menopausal when she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months.
2. At what age does this phenomenon appear?
Generally, women go through menopause around the age of 50. More broadly, this can happen between the ages of 45 and 55 . The age at which this phenomenon occurs is partly hereditary. A phase called “premenopause” often precedes menopause. Thus, women begin to experience changes (irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes, irritability, etc.) sometimes 5 years before menopause.
It happens that some women feel the symptoms of menopause before the age of 40, in this case it is a premature menopause. This can be spontaneous or caused by illness, medication, surgery, radiotherapy treatment or even smoking. Conversely, a late menopause can occur after 55 or even 60 years.
3. How do I know if I am menopausal?
You can tell if you're in menopause by looking at your symptoms, including your menstrual cycle . If you have had no periods at all for 12 months in a row, the diagnosis is clear. No examination is, a priori, necessary in this case.
In case of doubt, if you are under 45 for example, the doctor may resort to a test. A dosage of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is then carried out. If it's high, it's menopause. This is because when estrogen production drops, the pituitary tries to regulate this and starts producing more FSH.
4. What are the symptoms?
Menopause causes physical and psychological symptoms . However, not all women experience these troublesome disorders, or at least not in the same way. Disorders can be transient or long-lasting .
Nearly 75% of postmenopausal women experience hot flashes. They can appear day or night and last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. The flushes are commonly manifested by the occurrence of chills, tremors, sweating, feeling unwell and dizziness. During a hot flash, you may feel a sudden sensation of intense heat , rising from your chest to your face. All this sometimes accompanied by redness and palpitations.
Several factors favor the appearance of hot flashes: spicy dishes, alcohol, too high ambient heat, intense sporting activity, even emotions and stress.
Sweats sometimes accompany hot flashes. However, they can also occur in the middle of the night, without being linked to flushes. Profuse and regular nocturnal sweating is a real ordeal because it disrupts sleep . The first thing to do is to adapt your outfit for sleeping as well as the temperature of the room.
A widespread drought
Menopause and vulvovaginal dryness
Decreased vaginal lubrication, thinning and loss of elasticity of the walls of the vagina are caused by the drop in estrogen levels in the blood. It is therefore not uncommon to suffer from vaginal dryness during menopause. In addition, these changes can impact sex life and aggravate the decrease in desire (already linked to hormonal changes).
skin and hair
Some postmenopausal women also notice that their skin and hair are drier and more damaged than before. This phenomenon is due to the drop in hormones which influences the production of collagen and elastin.
Sleep disorders and mood disorders
Hormonal changes that disrupt sleep (difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings), as well as untimely awakenings due to night sweats can cause mood disorders in postmenopausal women. Some suffer from headaches and fatigue , which makes them more irritable . In addition, lack of sleep in some cases leads to impaired vigilance and memory .
A slight weight gain occurs at the time of menopause. The fact is that the hormonal change causes a new distribution of fat in the body (rather towards the belly than the thighs and hips in particular).
Symptoms little mentioned by postmenopausal women, urinary disorders are nevertheless very real. The fact is that the muscles of the perineum lose their tone with the drop in estrogen. However, these leaks tend to occur during exertion, such as coughing or exercising.
Joint stiffness, pain and swelling, particularly in the fingers and wrists, are common during menopause. Indeed, estrogen deficiency increases sensitivity to pain, especially in the joints.
5. Are there any health risks?
Menopause has been shown to increase the risk of developing certain diseases . During this period, bone demineralization is higher, which leads to their weakening and increases the risk of osteoporosis. In addition, cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke), which are usually more common in men, increase with the onset of menopause.
6. Can we fight against physical and psychological disorders?
Menopause can seem scary… How do you fight all these symptoms? How to live in this body that we no longer recognize?
First of all, remember that this is a natural phenomenon, which is part of a woman's life cycle and that each year in France, more than 10 million women go through menopause.
We should also remember that there are solutions to reduce these annoying symptoms.
Medical treatments to combat the symptoms associated with menopause
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medical treatment offered by the attending physician to correct symptoms related to estrogen deficiency. Prescribed individually, by assessing the benefits and risks, HRT is adapted to each patient.
However, a controversy has arisen over hormonal treatments. The High Authority for Health (HAS) recognizes the link between such treatments and the risk of developing diseases such as breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer, but also the increased risk of venous thromboembolism and of stroke. The prescription must therefore be minimal and for a limited period.
Many alternatives to hormone treatments exist to reduce hot flashes, dryness, and other pain associated with menopause. In particular, you can count on homeopathy and Chinese medicine (acupuncture, Chinese pharmacopoeia). Another even more natural way : food supplements combined with herbal medicine . This completely natural and hormone-free approach is based on the healing power of herbs and medicinal plants.
7. What can I do to preserve my well-being?
Beyond the treatments you can take to get better, the ideal is to bet on a healthy and balanced life thanks to these 5 tips:
- Eat healthy
It is recommended to focus on foods rich in calcium, vitamin K and phytoestrogens (such as soybeans, flax seeds, chickpeas and onions) to fight against deficiencies due to menopause. Conversely, it is best to avoid spicy foods, caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola) and hot or alcoholic drinks that promote hot flashes.
- Play sports
Nothing like walking, swimming or cycling to regulate your sleep and fight against depression, osteoporosis, overweight and cardiovascular disease.
- To relax
To prevent stress from overwhelming you, consider relaxing by practicing yoga, meditation, tai chi or even stretching.
- Take care of your body
Taking time for yourself is essential, especially when the symptoms of menopause overwhelm us. Take care of your body with a massage or moisturizer. He really needs it.
- Start a new activity
Above all, this advice allows you to focus on something other than all the changes you are going through. Choosing a new challenge or a new activity often helps postmenopausal women to cross this course without difficulty.
You now have all the cards in hand to face this new period of your life as a woman. Be aware of the physical and psychological symptoms of menopause in order to approach it with serenity. In some beliefs, it is synonymous with a new beginning. In China, for example, we speak of the “second spring”.