Menopause is defined as the last menstrual period that a woman has, therefore a post-menopausal woman is one who has stopped her menses. However, the common use of the term includes the hormonal changes before and after the final menstrual period. While the fluctuation of many hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH help to regulate a woman’s monthly cycle, the hormone responsible for the majority of the symptoms associated with menopause is estrogen. Estrogen levels fall markedly in the menopausal woman, to a level less than 25% of the lowest she has ever experienced to this point in her life. This rapid decrease may be responsible for the following symptoms:
Vaginal Symptoms – vaginal dryness, vaginal itching, pain with intercourse, vaginal yeast and bacterial infections, loss of pelvic support
Urinary Symptoms – urinary frequency, urinary urgency, urinary incontinence, pain with urination, recurrent urinary tract infections
Vasomotor Symptoms – hot flashes, headaches, palpitations, dizziness
Osteoporosis – Loss of bone density and fractures
Skin Changes – Thinning of skin, wrinkling
Psychological Symptoms – irritability, nervousness, depression, anxiety, decreased sex drive
It is important to note that not all women will have symptoms while going through menopause. Some women may experience a mild form of menopausal symptoms and require no treatment other than time for their bodies to adjust. Some women, however, have more severe symptoms that may require, and do respond well, to various forms of therapy.