Perimenopause is the term that refers to the menopause transition years, characterized by increased FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) levels in the female body. Signs and effects of a perimenopausal transition can show up as early as 35 years of age, lasting up to 10 years or more till the occurrence of the final period.
Causes of Perimenopause
Menopause marks the permanent stoppage of the primary function of the female ovaries, i.e. the production and maturation of ova and the release of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that cause the creation of the uterine lining and the subsequent shedding of the uterine lining. Menopause mostly occurs in women during their late 40s or early 50s, and signals the end of their fertile phase. This transition from the fertile to the non-fertile phase often occurs over a period of years, as a natural result of ageing. At other times, functional disorders like endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, cancer of the reproductive organs, etc. can also cause the onset of the symptoms of menopause or even speed up the menopausal process.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
During the perimenopausal transition period, women undergo noticeable and clinically observable physical changes resulting from hormonal fluctuations. However, the intensity, duration and frequency of these symptoms may vary from one woman to another – while for some, most of the perimenopause symptoms only last for a few months, for others, no symptoms occur at all.
Some common effects encountered by women during the perimenopausal transition period include:
- Hot Flashes/ Flushes: A “hot flash” can be described as a sudden temporary increase in body temperature. Hot flashes are often considered to be harmless by physicians and can be treated by the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or SSRI medications, or by using over the counter plant estrogens and herbal remedies.
- Mood Fluctuations: A women undergoing perimenopausal transition often experiences unexplained feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, irritability and stress.
- Changes in the Menstrual Cycle: Experiencing irregular periods, etc.
- Headaches: Headaches stretching over long hours are common among women at the advent of a menopause.
- Heart palpitation: Heart palpitation may be defined as a feeling of the heart skipping a beat or a sudden change in the rate of heat beat.
- Tender breasts
- Reduced sex drive
- Insomnia: Insomnia is marked by regular sleep disturbances or extreme lack of sleep.
- Fatigue: A feeling of tiredness and weakness prevails.
- Memory disorders: Some common memory disorders associated with perimenopausal transition period include loss of concentration, forgetfulness, etc.
- Empty Nest Syndrome: Menopause, along with the physical changes, brings along a sense of loss – related to the end of fertility, the death of parents, the sudden independence of children and the end of youth.
Treatment of Perimenopause
Prescription of melatonin supplementation to a woman undergoing perimenopausal symptoms can produce a major improvement in thyroid function and gonadotropin levels. It may also help in restoring menstruation and fertility and preventing the depression associated with the menopause in some cases.
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