Menopause: The Good, bad and the Ugly
Dr. Kamela Khalid
Mosque road, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
MENOPAUSE. No woman wants to hear or think of this term because of the physical and emotional rollercoasters associated with it. Menopause is a part of a woman’s natural ageing process and typically occurs between 45 to 55 years of age. It is marked by the loss of your periods, heralding the end of your reproductive phase.
The ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, hormones that are responsible for ovulation and thus your menstruation ceases.
Let’s look at some of the common after effects of menopause.
- Hot Flashes
One of the most common symptom experienced by menopausal women, a hot flash is experienced in the form of a mild to extreme heat throughout the body, accompanied by sweating, flushing, and a rapid heartbeat.
- Vaginal Dryness & Bladder Infections
Estrogen is responsible for providing moisture to the vaginal area. Due to a drop in estrogen levels during menopause, the vagina becomes thinner and less elastic, leading to a condition called ‘Vaginal Atrophy’. This may cause burning, itching or some other discomfort. The drop in estrogen level also weakens the urethra lining, making it more sensitive to bacteria. The Ph balance in the urinary tract often changes with menopause, making you more prone to bladder infections.
Estrogen is primary in maintaining bone density. Post menopause, women are at a greater risk of fractures due to weakening of the bones. It is a silent epidemic among menopausal women and the first indication is usually a fracture.
- Cancer Risk
Menopause does not cause cancer but it increases the chances of developing cancer. It largely depends at the age which menopause occurs. Women who start menopause later in life are at a heightened risk of developing breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer. The longer a women has been exposed to estrogen and menstrual cycles, the higher is the risk of cancer. Undergoing hormone therapy to manage menopause symptoms may slightly increase your chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
The risk of developing Type II Diabetes increases once you hit menopause. Low estrogen affects how cells respond to insulin, triggering fluctuations in your blood sugar level. Women who already suffer from diabetes may experience increase in symptoms.
- Sleep Apnea
Post menopause, many women go through sleep related disturbances. Insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, morning headaches are atypical symptoms of sleep apnea.
- Reduced Sex Drive
As you go through menopause, you may experience a change in your libido. Decrease in hormone levels and vaginal dryness may negatively affect your sex drive. Mood swings, depression, weight gain and other bodily discomforts decrease your desire for sex.
Each woman experiences menopause in a different way. While some breeze through it problem free, others witness mild to severe symptoms. The adverse effects of menopause could be tackled with the help of lifestyle changes, a proper diet, exercise and in some cases hormone replacement therapy. However, high risk women should avoid HRT as they may be more prone to cancer due to the increase in estrogen levels.
Some women may not experience any negative impacts of menopause but if you do not form that part of the population, stop struggling and seek appropriate advice and support. Consult your GP as help is available in a number of ways.
Menopause does not always have to bring in negative thoughts. For instance, women who have experienced painful periods throughout, can finally relax. No PMS, pregnancy worries or hormonal headaches.
While you cannot control ageing or menopause, what you can do is take better stock of your health to reduce the risk of common post-menopausal conditions.