Women's Health: Menopause
Overview
Menopause, commonly known as the change, is a natural and inevitable transition for every woman. Menopause affects every woman differently and may present various challenges that can affect one’s quality of life, sleep patterns, and daily routines. Since the onset of menopause affects every woman differently, most health care professionals recommend individualizing the management of the bothersome symptoms often associated with menopause.

The average age of onset for menopause is between 50 and 52 years; however, many women may begin to experience menopause symptoms between 44 and 55 years of age. Physiologic menopause is defined as the absence of menses for 1 year. Typically, the onset of menopause symptoms, which is also referred to as perimenopause, occurs in most women between 45 and 47 years of age.

Signs and Symptoms
Menopause symptoms vary from woman to woman. During perimenopause and menopause, common signs and symptoms include:
  • Irregularities in the menstrual cycle
  • Heavier or lighter cycles
  • Hot flashes
  • Problems sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Chills
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning of hair
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weight gain
  • Slow metabolism
  • Bladder control issues
Causes/Common Triggers of Hot Flashes
Common triggers of hot flashes during menopause can include ingesting caffeine alcohol, spicy foods or foods that contain nitrates or nitrites; smoking; and wearing tight clothing.

Testing and Diagnosis
While the signs and symptoms of menopause can alert your doctor that you have started the transition toward menopause, your doctor may check your hormone levels via blood and urine tests and ask you about the incidence and severity of your symptoms and any changes in your menstrual cycle. In some cases, your doctor may conduct a physical examination as well.

Management
You can manage the signs and symptoms associated with menopause by maintaining routine medical visits and incorporating various lifestyle modifications such as:
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga
  • Getting sufficient rest
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Establishing some type of exercise routine
  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Dressing in layers to keep cool
  • Lowering the temperature in your home and drinking cool drinks
Treatment and Care
Treatment for menopause is typically based on the severity of your symptoms, your overall health, and your preferences. Treatment may involve lifestyle modifications including dietary changes, hormone therapy, or alternatives to hormone therapy. Your doctor will determine the best possible therapy to manage your symptoms to suit your individual needs.

Homeopathic and Alternative Remedies
Some women may elect to use homeopathic and alternatives therapies such as:
  • Phytoestrogens (plants estrogens and isoflavones)
  • Black cohosh
  • Evening primrose
  • Chaste tree berry
  • Yoga or relaxation techniques
  • Acupuncture
  • Vitamin and nutritional supplements
  • Cooling cloths
To ascertain the appropriateness of these alternative remedies or supplements, it is important to discuss them with your doctor before use.

Self-Care
Various OTC products are marketed to manage and treat the common symptoms associated with menopause, and multivitamin/mineral nutritional supplements are formulated to meet the nutritional needs of women during menopause. To prevent drug interactions or contraindications, patients should inform their pharmacist of all the medications they are taking. Pharmacists can guide patients in the proper selection of these products.

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