Symptoms of menopause
Menopause is characterised by multiple physiological and psychological changes in a woman’s life. These are results from the changes to the woman’s hormone levels.
Menopause or cessation of menstrual cycles is a normal part of a woman’s life. The diagnosis of menopause is made after 12 months of amenorrhoea.9
Many women experience multiple symptoms before, around or at the time of menopause. Hot flushes and night sweats are the two most common symptoms of menopausal transition. They are also associated with disturbed sleep and irritability, thus affecting a woman's overall quality of life.1
Menopause can be associated with a variety of vasomotor symptoms and a few of the common ones are listed below.1-6
Why is it important to know about symptoms of menopause?
There are several symptoms of menopause and some of those might occasionally overlap with the symptoms of other medical conditions. A good knowledge about these symptoms, along with a detailed patient history helps in the early diagnosis and management of menopause.
Overview of symptoms of menopause
Irregularity in periods
The majority of women experience irregular menstrual periods during the menopausal transition period. Some women experience shortened cycles or longer periods of amenorrhoea. This irregularity in periods is indicative of the large fluctuation of the ovarian estrogen secretion.4
Hot flushes are the most common sign and symptom of menopause. They persist for a few months in some women, but could last for more than 10 years in others.1,3 The pathogenesis of hot flushes has not been fully understood yet; however, it is suggested to be influenced by variations in the levels of hormones such as estrogen, norepinephrine and serotonin.1
Night sweats are hot flushes that occur with perspiration during sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, women with night sweats experienced an average of 3 episodes per week.1 Night sweats can be strong enough to disturb sleep.1
Vasomotor symptoms may be associated with insomnia. Menopausal women are more likely to have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and achieving refreshing sleep.1
Menopause-associated changes in mood may be caused by several other factors, such as high sensitivity to environmental events secondary to decreased hormonal levels.1
Changes in body fat distribution
Weight gain does occur at midlife, but is a result of age and environmental factors rather than the menopause per se.6,8
Hormonal changes during menopause results in an increase in total body fat and redistribution of fat to the abdomen.6,8
The increase in central abdominal fat correlates with a risk of dyslipidemia and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.8
One of the early signs of reduced estrogen on the vagina is reduced lubrication during sexual activity.7
Without the production of estrogen, the skin and support tissues of the lips (vulva) and vagina become thinner and less elastic and the vagina can become dry. Approximately half of post-menopausal women experience vaginal dryness.7