10 Things to Know About Menopause

woman reading in kitchen 300x200 10 Things to Know About Menopause PhotoIf you’ve reached menopause, you’re probably experiencing hot flashes, night sweats and maybe mood swings. Those are the most common symptoms. But there’s more to menopause—a life change that all women experience—than those symptoms.

Here’s what you should know.

  1. It’s not sudden. Most women notice pre-menopause symptoms in their late 40s, and by their 50s, they’re experiencing actual menopause. “It’s not an on-off switch,” says Dr. JoAnn V. Pinkerton, director of the North American Menopause Society. “Even when the periods stop, estrogen levels continue to decline over the next five years.”  
  2. Symptoms may vary with ethnicity. Most women start menopause at about the same time in the United States, although there are ethnic variations, Pinkerton says. Asian women might experience hot flashes for five years, white women for seven years and black women for up to 10 years.  
  3. Hot flashes are short, but you can have them all day. The National Institute on Aging describes hot flashes as a flushed feeling around your face and neck, sometimes accompanied by red blotches. Most last for less than 10 minutes, but they can recur many times a day.  
  4. There are home remedies for hot flashes. Pinkerton recommends exercising, using cold compresses, dressing in layers, taking deep breaths and avoiding spicy food and alcohol.  
  5. Menopause can affect your mood. Irritability, anxiety and depression can accompany the approach of menopause. Maintaining social ties can help, and Pinkerton also recommends talking with your doctor about hormone therapies and antidepressants.  
  6. You may see differences in your skin, waist and eyes. As estrogen levels go down, your waist may get thicker and your skin may become thinner, more wrinkled and less elastic. Wounds might not heal as quickly, and your skin and eyes may feel dry.  
  7. Dryness may make sex painful. Potential solutions, Pinkerton says, include intravaginal DHEA—Intrarosa (prasterone)—a nonestrogen vaginal insert approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late 2016 to ease menopause-related vaginal dryness. Vaginal laser therapy is also being tested, and a nonestrogen oral medication—Osphena (ospemifene)—also has been approved.  Over-the-counter lubricants can help, as can estrogen creams and tablets and rings that go in your vagina.
  8. You may have bladder control problems. Holding onto urine can become challenging during menopause. You may experience a sudden urge to urinate and find yourself rushing to make it to the bathroom. Laughing, sneezing and exercise also can result in leaks.  
  9. Bone loss is a risk. As estrogen production slows, your body has a harder time replacing lost bone. Talk with your doctor about a bone density test, calcium supplements, weight-bearing exercises and other ways to maintain healthy bones.
  10. You might notice hair loss. Hormonal changes during menopause can affect hair growth and texture. Pinkerton recommends talking with your doctor about hormone treatments or other therapies for hair loss or excessive thinning.  

Learn more about menopause diagnosis and treatment and prepare for a visit with your doctor with our care guide.