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Menopause

Menopause is the point in your life when your ovaries stop producing enough hormones to keep the menstrual cycle going. After 1 year of having no periods, you've reached menopause. It usually happens around age 50, but everyone's body has its own timeline.

Having cancer treatment or surgery to remove the ovaries can cause menopause to start early.

Menopause is a natural part of growing older. You don't need treatment unless your symptoms bother you.

  • Symptoms

    What are the symptoms of menopause?

    Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and vaginal dryness. You may have only a few mild symptoms. Or you might have severe symptoms. Symptoms tend to get worse the first year after menopause. But then many of them improve or go away.

  • Diagnosis

    How is menopause diagnosed?

    Your age, your history of menstrual periods, and your symptoms will tell your doctor if you are near or at menopause. If you can, bring a calendar or journal of your periods and symptoms. You likely won't need to be tested to see if you have started perimenopause or reached menopause.

    But if you have heavy, irregular periods, your doctor may want to do tests to rule out a serious cause of the bleeding. Heavy bleeding may be a normal sign of perimenopause. But it can also be caused by infection, disease, or a pregnancy problem.

    If you have severe symptoms, if your doctor suspects another medical condition, or if you have a medical condition that makes a diagnosis difficult, your doctor may do one or more of these blood tests:

    • A follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test can be done. This test can be used to help tell if you have reached menopause. FSH levels often rise during perimenopause and are high after menopause.
    • A pregnancy test is done if there's a chance that you are pregnant. (This can also be a urine test.)
    • A thyroid-stimulating hormone test is used to see if irregular menstrual periods or perimenopause-like symptoms are being caused by a thyroid problem.

    If you haven't had a menstrual period for 1 year, this is a good time to have a full physical exam. The doctor will focus on your heart health and risk factors for osteoporosis.

    You may not need to see your doctor about menopause symptoms. But your risks for heart disease, cancer, and bone thinning (osteoporosis) increase after menopause. Your doctor can check your overall health and recommend testing as needed.

  • Treatment

    How is menopause treated?

    Menopause is a natural part of growing older. You don't need treatment for it unless your symptoms bother you. But if your symptoms are upsetting or uncomfortable, you don't have to suffer through them. There are treatments that can help.

    The first step is to have a healthy lifestyle. It may help reduce symptoms and also lower your risk of heart disease and other long-term problems related to aging.

    All medicines for menopause symptoms have possible risks or side effects. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your possible health risks before you start a treatment.

    Medicines may include:

    • Birth control pills before menopause.
    • Hormone therapy (HT).
    • Antidepressants.
    • Clonidine, a high blood pressure medicine.