Menopause and Perimenopause
In your late 30s, your Reference egg supply begins to decline in number and quality. As a result, your hormone production changes. You may notice a shortened menstrual cycle and some Reference premenstrual syndrome (PMS) Opens New Window symptoms that you didn't have before.
Gradually, your periods become irregular. This can start as early as your late 30s or as late as your early 50s. It continues for 2 to 8 years before menstrual cycles end.
During this time, your ovaries are sometimes producing too much Reference estrogen Opens New Window and/or Reference progesterone Opens New Window and at other times too little. Your progesterone is likely to fluctuate more than before. This can lead to Reference heavy menstrual bleeding Opens New Window. (If you have heavy or unexpected vaginal bleeding, see your doctor to be sure it isn't caused by a more serious condition.)
About 6 months to a year before your periods stop, your estrogen starts to drop. When it drops past a certain point, your menstrual cycles stop. After a year of no menstrual periods, you are said to have "reached menopause."
During the next year or so, estrogen levels keep going down. This lowers your risk for certain types of cancers (estrogen is linked to some types of cancerous cell growth). But low estrogen also creates some health concerns, such as:
- Bone loss. Low estrogen levels after menopause speed bone loss, increasing your risk of Reference osteoporosis Opens New Window.
- Skin changes. Low estrogen leads to low Reference collagen Opens New Window, which is a building block of skin and connective tissue. It's normal to have thinner, dryer, wrinkled skin after menopause. The vaginal lining and the lower urinary tract also thin and weaken. This condition can make sexual activity difficult. It can also increase the risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections.
- Tooth and gum changes. Low estrogen affects connective tissue, which increases your risk of tooth loss and possibly gum disease.
Although the reasons aren't well understood, a woman's risk of heart disease increases after menopause. Because heart disease is the number one killer of women, consider your heart risk factors when making lifestyle and treatment decisions.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference April 26, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine