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Menopause

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Common Misconceptions About Menopause Timing

There is an unfortunately large amount of misinformation about menopause circulating among women today. Here are three common misconceptions about menopause timing:

Menopause Happens Only To Senior Citizens

Menopause does not affect only older women. The average age range for menopause is between the ages of 45-55, although some women continue menstruating into their late 50s, and some women can experience menopause very early. There are many factors, mostly poorly-understood, that affect this timing. However, the onset of menopause has a genetic component. Knowing when your mother and sisters began menopause can help you get a better idea of when it might happen to you.

The Effects Of Menopause Only Last A Few Years

Menopause effects such as night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and irritability are the most severe and unpleasant during the first year or so of menopause. They tend to progressively decrease over time. However, depending on how your body handles it, it could be several years before the hot flashes cease. The other effects of menopause, such as atrophy of the sexual organs, vaginal dryness, itching, and sensitivity, and bone density loss, are actually caused by the body’s lowered levels of estrogen and will continue permanently.

Estrogen therapy can relieve the effects of menopause at least temporarily, but it is currently considered unsafe to continue hormone replacement therapy over the long term unless very severe symptoms result from the withdrawal of the treatment. Estrogen replacement therapy has significant side effects including increased risk of breast cancer.

Menopause Is Only Triggered By Aging

Many women believe that menopause can only be triggered by aging. Menopause can be caused by a number of health factors. Any damage to the ovaries can begin the menopause process, where the hormone production of the ovaries sharply drops and the body begins to change in response.

Hysterectomy including removal of the ovaries is a common trigger of menopause. This side effect of having a hysterectomy is referred to as “surgical menopause” because the ovaries are no longer present to produce estrogen. Hysterectomy that removes the uterus but leaves the ovaries intact, does not always trigger menopause; although there is no longer menstruation because there is no uterus, the ovaries continue their monthly hormonal cycle. Radiation, chemotherapy, or autoimmune disease can also compromise the ovaries, shortening their active life span or causing them to stop functioning.

 

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