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The average age for menopause in the U.S. is 51. For some women, menopause can be challenging, but a greater understanding of the symptoms and treatments can help smooth this natural transition.
Menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstrual periods. It’s triggered by a natural decline in female hormones released by the ovaries, surgical removal of the ovaries, lack of sufficient reproductive hormones, or sometimes by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. A woman has officially entered menopause after she hasn't had her menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
Some women confuse perimenopause with menopause. Perimenopause generally begins years before women reach menopause and can include irregular menstrual periods and other common menopause symptoms.
Not all women undergoing menopause suffer through hot flashes.
Contemporary treatments focus on relieving any symptoms of menopause that may be disruptive and assessing current or potential chronic medical conditions. Women should speak with their health care team about risks and benefits related to treatment options, which may include hormone replacement therapy or nonhormonal remedies.
Some women notice pelvic floor issues during menopause, such as an overactive bladder or urinary incontinence. Others may experience vaginal dryness or irritation. Many options are available for treating these bothersome and sometimes embarrassing problems.
For some women, lifestyle changes can manage bladder problems, such as limiting the amount of caffeine they drink or scheduling regular trips to the bathroom. For other women, physical therapy or biofeedback is effective. Some women may benefit from topical vaginal lubricants or moisturizers.
Menopause is a normal life change and a natural part of the aging process. Treatment should be individualized and based on a woman's symptoms. Women should discuss the risks and benefits of treatment options with their health care team.
Katie Casper, M.D., and Tarek Khalife, M.D., are OB-GYNs in Mankato, Minnesota.
This post originally appeared on the Mayo Clinic Health System blog.
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