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Menopause and sex home page

 

 

 



Menopause and sex

 

 

 



Woman health. Menopause and sex.

The time of menopause

A woman is said to be in menopause after she has gone for one full year without periods. While most women in the United States go through menopause around the age of 51, a small number will experience menopause as early as age 40 or as late as their late 50s. Rarely, menopause occurs after age 60. When menopause is diagnosed before age 40, it is considered to be abnormal or premature menopause.

In women, the ovaries produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone control a woman's periods and other processes in her body. As a woman approaches menopause, her ovaries gradually makes less and less of these hormones.

For most women, menopause is a normal process of aging. If a woman has had her ovaries removed by surgery or has had damage to her ovaries for other reasons, such as radiation therapy, she may become menopausal from that process.

Perimenopause, also known as the climacteric, includes the time before menopause when hormonal and biological changes and physical symptoms begin to occur. This period lasts for an average of three to five years.

Some women don't have any symptoms during menopause or only have a few symptoms. Others develop disturbing and even severe, disabling symptoms. Studies of women around the world suggest that differences in lifestyle, diet and activity may play a role in the severity and type of symptoms women have during menopause. Symptoms can be noticed for several months to years before the last menstrual period and can continue for several years after.

A hot flash is a feeling described as suddenly being hot, flushed and uncomfortable, especially in the face and neck. Hot flashes come in bursts or flushes that usually last a few seconds to a few minutes. They are caused by changes in the way blood vessels relax and contract and are thought to be related to the changes in a woman's estrogen levels.

A woman can have irregular periods for several months to years before her periods finally stop. Any vaginal bleeding that develops after a year of no periods is abnormal and should be evaluated by a doctor.

As estrogen levels drop and remain low during menopause, the risk of developing osteoporosis increases. The risk is greatest for slender, white or light-skinned women. You can help prevent osteoporosis by getting enough vitamin D through sunlight or a daily multivitamin, eating a diet rich in calcium and performing regular exercise. Women should start taking these actions well before menopause begins. This is because women begin to lose bone mass as early as age 30 but fractures resulting from osteoporosis don't occur until 10 to 15 years after menopause.

Before menopause, women have lower rates of heart attack and stroke than men. After menopause, however, the rate of heart disease in women continues to rise and equals that of men after age 65.

For most women, the diagnosis of menopause is made based on a woman's description of her symptoms and the ending of her menstrual periods. Laboratory testing is not usually needed.

Because women can still become pregnant while they are perimenopausal, doctors may do a pregnancy test when a woman's periods become irregular, infrequent or light. In some cases, a blood test for levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) may be recommended. FSH levels are normally high in menopause, so high FSH levels can help to confirm that a woman is in menopause.

Another test is endometrial biopsy. An endometrial biopsy is an office procedure in which a tiny piece of endometrial tissue from inside the uterus is taken and examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. This test may be done when a woman is having irregular, frequent or heavy bleeding, but it is not routinely recommended as a test for menopause.

Menopause is a natural event and cannot be prevented. Medications, diet and exercise can prevent or eliminate some symptoms of menopause and enhance a woman's quality of life as she grows older.

A number of medications are used to treat the symptoms of menopause. The type of medication needed is a complicated decision and each woman should discuss the issue with her doctor. The treatment will depend on what symptoms are most bothersome and how bothersome they are.

Medications such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and paroxetine (Paxil) are often the first choice for women with hot flashes who are not on hormone replacement therapy. They relieve the symptoms of hot flashes in 60% of women.

The Gabapentin (Neurontin) moderately effective in treating hot flashes. Gabapentin's main side effect is drowsiness. Taking it at bedtime may help improve sleep while decreasing hot flashes.

All postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis or are at risk of osteoporosis should take calcium and vitamin D supplements. The usual recommended supplemental dose is 1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate (taken with meals) or calcium citrate daily. It is best to take this as 500 milligrams twice a day. Women also need 800 international units of vitamin D daily.

Etidronate (Didronel), alendronate (Fosamax) and other similar drugs are the most effective medicines that can be used to both prevent and treat osteoporosis. They increase bone density and decrease the risk of fractures.

Raloxifene (Evista) drug has some of the beneficial effects of estrogen without the increased risk of breast cancer. It is effective in building bone strength and preventing fractures.




Menopause and sex. Woman health.






Definitions used on this page

Anxiety


Chlorella


Estrogen


Menopause


PMS


Perimenopause


Progesterone


Biopsy


Climacteric


Depression


Estrogen


Hormone


Osteoporosis


Premenstrual syndrome


Progesterone


Stress


Testosterone


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Information in this document about Woman health named Menopause and sex is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. The information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments of Woman health. Additionally, the manufacture and distribution of herbal substances are not regulated now in the United States, and no quality standards currently exist like brand name medicine and generic medicine. Talk about Woman health to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright 2007 European Health Society, Woman health section.































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