Menopause is an event that happens in nearly every woman’s life. During this time, the woman’s ovaries stop making estrogen and the reproductive system begins to stop working. A woman may, however, still experience sporadic menstruation while going through the change.
In most women, menopause occurs as a natural part of the aging process. The average age for American women to begin is 50.5 years old, though it is possible to start at a younger age. In some women, it is caused by illnesses, disease, or surgical procedures such as hysterectomy.
The length of time it takes for a woman to complete the menopause cycle is unique to each woman. For the most part, it takes six months to five years to complete. In some women, the process may take even longer. To be medically regarded as having completed menopause, a woman must go for 12 consecutive months without menstruating.
While a woman goes through menopause, she experience many symptoms caused by the change in estrogen levels. Typical symptoms include hot flashes, heart palpitations, vaginal dryness, and increasingly frequent urination. Many women going through the change also experience emotional difficulties, such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, and a general irritable feeling. Some also have difficulty with concentration.
Some women experience premature menopause. For these women, the cycle begins before the age of 40. It is sometimes the result of cancer or some other disease that requires treatment with chemotherapy.
Other diseases that can lead to premature menopause include diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, and autoimmune disorders. In other women, it happens naturally for no known reason. Research has concluded, however, that twins have a higher incidence than the average population.
The symptoms of menopause and the length of the cycle do not change if a woman experiences it prematurely. However, the woman is at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than post-menopausal women in general. This is particularly true for Caucasian women of European descent.