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Perimenopause v. Menopause: What’s the difference?

Menopause is a normal part of aging for women.

It involves the cessation of monthly periods, and is defined as occurring 12 months after the last one. Menopause occurs in most women after the age of 40, but there is wide variation. Along with the end of menstruation, several other body changes occur in menopause.

Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause. (The prefix “peri” means around or near.) As women age and reach the end of their child-bearing years, levels of certain hormones in their bodies decline. It is this change in hormone levels that causes menopause, but because it doesn’t happen all at once, the onset of perimenopause is gradual. Perimenopause is this intermediate period, which can last several years.

Causes and Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause

nlike men, who produce new sperm throughout their lives, women are born with all the eggs they’re ever going to have already in their ovaries. The ovaries also produce estrogen and progesterone, hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.

As a woman nears the age of 40 she may begin to produce less progesterone and or estrogen, causing the onset of perimenopause. There is no hard line between the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, although they may become more intense the closer the women gets to the latter. Symptoms include problems with sleep (insomnia, waking early); menstruation (missing or irregular); hair (scalp dryness and loss of hair); pain during intercourse; and others, such as (in no special order):

  • fatigue
  • sweating and night sweats
  • osteoporosis
  • rise in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol level
  • hot flashes
  • anxiety, irritability, and moodiness
  • dry skin
  • reduced sex drive and vaginal dryness

Perimenopause can last as long as ten years, usually ending around the age of 50 in western women. Perimenopausal women still have menstrual periods, but they become irregular because the rise and fall of estrogen levels are irregular. The periods may also be shorter or longer than usual. Ovulation may or may not occur and fertility will decline, but women should keep in mind that as long as they are menstruating, it is possible to become pregnant.

Treatment for Perimenopause and Menopause Symptoms

ome women are not significantly inconvenienced when they become perimenopausal or menopausal, while others have such severe symptoms that they interfere with their day-to-day activities. In addition to those listed above, symptoms can include headaches, bloating in the upper abdomen, bladder infections, dizziness, and fast or irregular heartbeat.

If the symptoms are very severe, a physician can prescribe hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. In addition to treating the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, HRT can end cyclical bleeding, protect the lining of the uterus against the carcinogenic effects of estrogen, prevent unwanted pregnancies, support bone density, and shrink uterine fibroids.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay or Monterey area and suffer from symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, contact Evolved Medical for a free consultation. You’ll learn more about your body’s physical response to aging and how hormone replacement therapy can help. Call us at (888) 925-4568.

 

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