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What is menopause?

Menopause is a normal and natural part of a woman’s aging process.  It is commonly called “the change of life” and occurs around the age of 45 to 55 (the average is 50).  During this time, hormones change and menstruation (“getting periods”) stops.  Common symptoms include hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, night sweats, and irregular periods.  Menopausal onset age, duration, and symptoms differ among women.

The internal female reproductive system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and vagina. The ovaries are two small organs that produce eggs (ova) and hormones. An ovary typically releases one mature egg each month during a female’s reproductive years. Two fallopian tubes extend from near the ovaries to the uterus. The fallopian tubes transport the mature eggs to the uterus (womb). The uterus is a pear-shaped organ where a baby grows during pregnancy. During the reproductive years, the lining of the uterus undergoes cyclic changes to facilitate and maintain pregnancy.

Menopause is a normal and natural process in the aging female.  It occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs and her body produces less estrogen and progesterone hormones.  Menstruation becomes less frequent and eventually stops altogether.  When menopause is complete, pregnancy cannot occur.

The age of onset, duration, and symptoms of menopause vary from woman to woman. Symptoms occur as the production of estrogen and progesterone decreases. Menopause usually takes from one to five years to complete. Some women do not have any symptoms. The severity and type of menopausal symptoms vary. Menopausal symptoms usually stop when menopause is complete. However, some people continue to have hot flashes, even for years afterward.

The most common symptoms are as follows:

  1. Menstrual irregularities – Some women stop menstruating abruptly, but most women experience periods that taper off before stopping. Your periods may become farther apart or closer together. You may experience bleeding between periods.
  2. Hot flashes and or night sweats
  3. Sleep irregularities
  4. Mood changes (new-onset depression, irritability, lack of interest and motivation)
  5. Tiredness and difficulty concentrating, memory problems, headaches, and joint pains.
  6. Genito-urinary symptoms like vaginal dryness, urinary changes, and a decrease in sex drive.
  7. Long-term changes in the body – Bone density loss and eventually osteoporosis and metabolic abnormalities, which may lead to increased risk of heart disease.

Dr Reena Thomas will diagnose this condition by performing a comprehensive medical evaluation, discussing all the symptoms you are experiencing, including their impact on daily living.  She will then order blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes of irregular or absent menstrual periods.

Dr Thomas will review and discuss all your symptoms and the results of the blood tests with you. Once the diagnosis of menopause is confirmed, she will educate you on the condition and discuss the different treatment options. She will recommend an annual breast exam, including a mammogram, pelvic exam, and a pap smear. She will screen you for thyroid disease, heart disease, colon cancer, and bone density loss. She will formulate an individualized treatment plan highlighting lifestyle modifications – a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoidance of alcohol and tobacco smoking. She will explore treatment options, including hormonal and non-hormonal therapies, emphasizing the risks and benefits of all the therapies.

At a Glance

Dr. Reena Thomas, MD

  • Dual American board-certified endocrinologist
  • Author of numerous academic and clinic research
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