Menopause is a natural biological process in women marking the end of fertility. It is defined as 12 months after the last menstrual period. The average age for menopause for women in the United States is 51. If the onset of menopause happens before the age of 40, it is referred to as premature menopause.
Some women transition smoothly into menopause, but the hormonal changes associated with this “change of life” can cause unpleasant symptoms for others. Some common complaints associated with menopause include: vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, weight gain, thinning hair, loss of breast fullness, anxiety or sadness and sleep disruption.
Evaluation & Diagnosis
Your doctor can confirm if you are experiencing menopause by ruling out other conditions such as pregnancy and thyroid disease with a blood test and by testing your estrogen levels. An estrogen level of 30 or less may indicate you are in menopause.
Another way to confirm menopause is to test your levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). A high FSH level (over 40) indicates that your ovaries are producing less estrogen and typically signals menopause.
Menopause Treatment Options
Often menopause requires no treatment at all, but if the symptoms are severe, they can often be alleviated with hormone replacement therapy or other medications geared at symptom reduction.