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Does Menopause Cause Mood Swings?
Menopause comes from the Greek words pausis (cessation) and mensis (month) -- so menopause literally means "the end of monthly cycles." Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her ability to reproduce begins to end. This typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Because the ovaries produce lower levels of sex hormones -- such as estrogen -- during this time, menopause can bring about moderate to extreme physical and emotional changes in a woman's life.
Signs of menopause
There are many indications of the onset of menopause, which can last anywhere from one to three years, with extreme cases lasting as long as 10 years.
Your doctor can confirm menopause by conducting one of two tests. The first test involves checking FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) levels in your blood to see if they have risen. When you enter into menopause, your FSH levels will rise dramatically because the ovaries are shutting down the release of eggs. A Pap test can verify if your vaginal walls are thinning, another sign of menopause.
Taken individually, the following signs may not indicate menopause, but several of these feelings and symptoms together, especially near the age when menopause typically occurs, is a good indication that a woman is in fact experiencing menopause:
- Hot flashes: Hot flashes are momentary sensations of heat that can cause a flushed or red face. Women can attempt to prevent hot flashes by limiting stress, caffeine, alcohol, tight clothing, spicy food, heat and cigarette smoking.
- Loss of sex drive: A decreased interest in sex can be a temporary symptom of menopause. This is often due to hormone shifts. However, on occasion, a decreased libido can also be a reaction to stress.
- Vaginal dryness: Decreased estrogen often causes vaginal dryness, which may be worse during an infection.
- Menstrual irregularities: A change in the length of a woman’s cycle – either longer or shorter than normal. There could also be a longer or shorter timeframe between periods.
- Headaches: An increase in migraines and tension headaches is possible.
- Insomnia: Night sweats can often hinder sleep, causing sleep deprivation.
- Weight gain: Once a woman enters menopause, a combination of changing fat deposits, a decrease in muscle mass and a slower metabolism can give women a larger, rounder stomach and looser arm and leg tissues.
Other symptoms might include:
- Cold flashes
- Bouts of clamminess
- Tender breasts
- Hair loss
More serious menopause symptoms
On rare occasions, menopause symptoms can be serious or even dangerous. It's a good idea to talk with your doctor if you experience:
Heavy bleeding: Oftentimes, heavy bleeding can be a sign of more serious conditions, including fibroid tumors, uterine polyps or uterine cancer. The loss of too much blood can make women anemic.
High blood pressure: High blood pressure can put a woman at risk for heart attack or stroke.
Depression: Many women mourn the loss of their childbearing years and feel depressed as they go through menopause, and hormonal shifts can make these feelings more intense. It's important to keep an eye on these feelings and consult a physician if you feel you are experiencing more than just "the blues."
Heart palpitations: An irregular heartbeat or occasional heart palpitation is common in women who are going through menopause. However, if the irregularity is happening frequently, or is combined with trouble breathing, fainting, chest pain, anxiety or nausea, it could be a sign of heart disease or a heart attack. Menopause can increase a woman's risk for both osteoporosis and heart disease.
Women are considered to be postmenopausal when they have not had their period for one full year. At this stage, most, if not all, of the menopausal symptoms will have subsided for most women. However, because of the decrease in estrogen, there will now be greater health risks, including a greater risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease.
Sage and black cohosh have been known to help with hot flashes and night sweats, while ginseng often helps with fatigue. Counseling is often recommended during this time, not only for the woman going through menopause, but sometimes for family members as well.
Menopause is inevitable, but no woman needs to suffer. There are options available that offer menopause relief. The best advice is to seek out the care of a physician at the onset of menopause, just to be on the safe side and to feel prepared.