Diagnosis of Menopause
The diagnosis of menopause happens when a woman’s menstrual cycle has stopped for at least 12 months. There are, of course, other hormonal indications and perimenopausal symptoms that many women experience but, the biggest thing that happens to a woman during menopause is the cessation of her menstrual cycle.
There have been other terms used for this time in a woman’s life. Some have called it the ‘change of life’ for decades. This refers to the change that a woman experiences when she goes from childbearing years to no longer being able to bear a child.
Other changes include the symptoms of both menopause and peri-menopause that have plagued women. These changes have driven women to seek medical care and relief from physicians. These symptoms and changes include vaginal dryness, headaches, hot or cold flashes, sweating, mood swings and weight gain.
Women may begin to experience the symptoms of peri-menopause from the age of 39 through the age of 50. The cessation of menstruation can happen in that same age range. The variation in start and stop of this process is large but normal.
The start of menstruation begins when the function of the ovarian system begins to decline. While this normally happens after age 40 there are about 5% of women who will experience premature menopause before the age of 40 idiopathically. This means that there is no medical reason that physicians can find for the woman to have entered menopause.
There are other medical conditions that may cause a woman to enter menopause early. This is called pathological menopause and can be caused by reproductive tract tumors, malnutrition, debilitation, extreme emotional stress, excess radiation exposure and surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy or other procedures that may impair ovarian blood supply.
The diagnosis of menopause is often a milestone in a woman’s life. Not because it’s exciting but she is often saddened by her loss of being able to bear children, the changes to her body and the perception that aging is now accelerated.
Although aging happens at a set pace among all people there are things that can be done to speed the appearance of aging or decrease the appearance. For instance, smoking will decrease the amount of collagen in the skin which decreases the elasticity and youthfulness. The loss of hormonal support during menopause has the same effect of decreasing the collagen and elasticity of the skin. This increases the appearance of aging.
In a society that values the youthful appearance of a woman and admires the craggy aging face of a man the diagnosis of menopause can send a woman into a depressed state. Although we have no control over whether or not we enter menopause there are new technological advances in skin care to decrease the appearance of aging. There are also groups of women who work through the process of menopause together. This support is invaluable to a woman who is facing the challenges of symptoms, aging and changes in relationships as she enters the latter half of her life.
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