Find out where to get menopause help.
Symptoms of menopause can range from unpleasant to serious, so it's important to know where to turn to find menopause help. Menopause is defined as the lack of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months that cannot be explained by illness or pregnancy.
According to the American Menopause Association, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51. During menopause, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply. There are no specific treatments for menopause, but there are many approaches to treating and alleviating its symptoms.
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause. During a hot flash, women may suddenly feel warm, sweat uncontrollably, and have facial flushing and clammy skin. Hot flashes may be accompanied by other symptoms, including headache, racing heartbeat, nausea or dizziness.
Some women find that making dietary changes, such as eliminating caffeine, alcohol or spicy foods, can help minimize hot flashes. Try to dress in layers to facilitate a quick cool down when a hot flash strikes. Wear natural fibers, such as cotton, to increase comfort. Consider herbal remedies and non-hormonal drugs that can help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Talk to a doctor about treatment options. The good news is that for most women, hot flashes will eventually recede as hormone levels adapt.
Many women experiencing menopause report trouble sleeping. Sometimes this is due to night sweats, which are related to hot flashes. This can be mitigated by using thin layers of breathable bed covers or sleeping in very light bed-clothes.
Sometimes the problem isn't hot flashes, but an inability to sleep through the night. Getting regular exercise and following a steady bedtime routine can help ease restlessness. Avoid food, alcohol or work before bedtime. Try sipping a warm non-alcoholic drink, keep the bedroom cool and dark, and develop soothing nighttime rituals.
Decreased estrogen levels can result in vaginal dryness, irritation, burning, itching and pain. A water-based lubricant can help make sex less painful. Talk to a doctor about these symptoms, especially if experiencing burning while urinating or a shift in urination frequency, symptoms that can indicate a urinary-tract problem.
During menopause, many women experience mood swings or other emotional issues. It's important to consult with a doctor about feelings as well as physical symptoms. A doctor can recommend antidepressant medications or other treatments that can help. Mood swings often decline over time, but depression is a serious condition that should be treated by a doctor.
Other symptoms of menopause include osteoporosis, hair loss, dry skin, lack of libido and incontinence. While many of these symptoms are merely irritating, some can be serious, so it's important to talk to a doctor about all symptoms.
Another source of help for menopausal women can be hormone therapy in which a doctor prescribes estrogen or progestin to replace hormones the body is no longer producing. Hormone therapy can reduce the symptoms of menopause, but it is not without risk. Breast cancer, stroke, heart disease and blood clots are all potential hormone-therapy side effects. While hormone therapy can be beneficial for some, the risks outweigh the benefits for others. Talk to a doctor about the right course of action for treating symptoms.
Several organizations are dedicated to educating and helping women with menopause. Among them are the North American Menopause Society, the American Menopause Foundation and the National Women's Health Information Center, which has a section specifically devoted to menopause issues.