Menopause is a natural stage of a woman’s reproductive life. Menopause is classified as either surgical (as the result of surgical removal of the ovaries) or natural, which occurs on average, around the age of 50. During natural, or gradual, menopause, the ovaries become increasingly resistant to the hormonal messages sent by the brain telling the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone. When the ovaries lose the ability to respond to the brain’s hormonal messages, the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone.
This lowered production of hormones results in the disruption of the menstrual cycle, both in timing and character. Periods may be heavier, lighter, or irregular, but eventually they cease. Fertility is greatly diminished as the result of menopause. Symptoms of menopause may include, but are not limited to, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, irritability, headaches and mood swings. Individual symptoms range from mild to disruptive.
Treatment of menopause is individualized and takes into consideration personal history, family history, severity of symptoms, and the existence of any other medical issues. Some patients elect to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the relief of symptoms. There exist both risks and benefits with the use of HRT, as with any medication. Whether or not HRT is right for you should be discussed with your health care provider.
Of note, the use of hormone replacement is trending towards lower doses of medication for shorter periods of time thanks to new and ongoing research into the long term risks and benefits of therapy, as well as the advent of different types of medications that address the negative effects of lower estrogen levels, including bone loss. Menopause therapy is tailored to the individual and evolves meeting the needs of the patient as well as considering the latest research in the field of menopause.
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