Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Take the Menopause Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
Test your Knowledge!
Q:What is menopause?
A:Menopause is defined as the absence of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. The menopausal transition starts with varying menstrual cycle length and ends with the final menstrual period.
Q:What is the average age of the onset of menopause?
A:The average age for the onset of menopause is 51. Still, there is no way to predict when an individual woman will enter menopause. The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is also not related to the age of menopause onset. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but menopause may occur as earlier as the 30s or 40s, or may not occur until a woman reaches her 60s. As a rough "rule of thumb," women tend to undergo menopause at an age similar to that of their mothers.
Q:What is the most characteristic symptom of menopause?
A:It varies from woman to woman. It is important to remember that each woman's experience is highly individual. Some women may experience few or no symptoms of menopause, while others experience multiple physical and psychological symptoms. The extent and severity of symptoms varies significantly among women.
Q:What are health risks that are associated with menopause?
A:Menopause increases a woman's risks for heart disease and osteoporosis. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. women and osteoporosis results in dangerously thin bones. Before menopause, estrogen gives women some protection against those conditions, so when estrogen levels ebb with menopause, that advantage is lost. Of course, heart and bone health is important throughout a woman's life, but menopause means it's really time to step up and get serious about it for women who haven't already.
Q:What kinds of medications or dietary supplements should menopausal women take?
A:It depends on the woman, her symptoms, and her medical history. Menopause itself is a normal part of life and is not a disease that requires treatment. However, treatment of associated symptoms is possible if these become substantial or severe. A woman should discuss her symptoms with her health care practitioner and together they can decide what treatment options for menopausal symptoms are the best. Possible if these become substantial or severe. A woman should discuss her symptoms with her health care practitioner and they together can decide what treatment options for menopausal symptoms are the best.
Q:How is menopause diagnosed?
A:The only way to diagnose menopause is to observe the lack of menstrual periods for 12 months in a woman in the expected age range. Because hormone levels may fluctuate greatly in an individual woman, even from one day to the next, hormone levels are not a reliable method for diagnosing menopause. Even if levels are low one day, they may be high the next day in the same woman. There is no single blood test that reliably predicts when a woman is going through the menopausal transition. Therefore, there is currently no proven role for blood testing regarding menopause except for tests to exclude medical causes of erratic menstrual periods other than menopause.
Q:What are proven alternative therapies for menopause symptoms?
A:Black cohosh (Remifemin) is a commonly used herbal supplement that is believed to reduce hot flashes. However, small German studies that tested black cohosh only followed women over a short time period. The German agency that regulates herbs does not recommend using black cohosh for longer than six months. Black cohosh is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so women must be careful about the safety and purity of this supplement. Plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) such as soy protein are a popular remedy for hot flashes, although data on their effectiveness are limited. Inconclusive and conflicting studies indicate that other herbals, such as dong quai, red clover (Promensil), chasteberry (Vitex), yam cream, Chinese medicinal herbs, and evening primrose oil, should be avoided or taken with care under the supervision of a health care practitioner to avoid unwanted and dangerous side effects and interactions.
Q:How is perimenopause medically treated?
A:Perimenopause is medically treated with hormone therapies (HT) or birth control pills. Perimenopause, often accompanied by irregularities in the menstrual cycle along with the typical symptoms of early menopause, can begin up to 10 years prior to the last menstrual period. During perimenopause, some doctors suggest birth control pills to help with very heavy, frequent, or unpredictable menstrual periods. These pills might also help with symptoms like hot flashes, as well as prevent pregnancy. As a woman gets closer to menopause, she might be bothered more by symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, or vaginal dryness. Doctors might then suggest starting HT.
Q:Which is NOT a usual symptom of menopause?
A:Back pain. Back pain is not a usual symptom of menopause. Typically menopause has three main types of symptoms: physical, emotional and sexual. Problems and symptoms can include hot flashes, night sweats, profuse sweating, difficulty sleeping, headaches, decreased bone density, moodiness, anxiety, forgetfulness and problems with concentration, and vaginal dryness.
Q:What is premature menopause?
A:In the U.S., the average age of onset for "natural" menopause is 51. However, because of genetics, illness, or medical procedures, some women go through menopause before the age of 40. Menopause that occurs before this time – whether natural or induced – is known as "premature" menopause.
Q:Which factors can affect the timing of menopause?
A:Surgical removal of the ovaries and chemotherapy and radiation can affect the timing of menopause. The surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) in an ovulating woman will result in an immediate menopause. Additionally, depending upon the type and location of the cancer and its treatment, these types of cancer therapy (chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy) can result in menopause if given to an ovulating woman.
Q:Hot flashes can last from a few minutes to a few hours. True or False?
A:False. Hot flashes are typically brief, lasting from about 30 seconds to a few minutes. Redness of the skin, known as flushing, may accompany hot flashes along with excessive perspiration (sweating). When hot flashes occur during sleep, they may be accompanied by night sweats.
Q:Postmenopausal women can still bear children. True or False?
A:False. Menopause is the time in a woman's life when the function of the ovaries ceases and menstruation stops. Postmenopause is formally defined as the time after which a woman has experienced twelve (12) consecutive months without a menstrual period. Therefore, child bearing can no longer occur.
Q:Osteoarthritis, vaginal atrophy, decreased estrogen, osteoarthritis. Which is LEAST likely to occur as a result of menopause?
A:Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is not a usual manifestation of menopause. As estrogen levels decline, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner, drier, light pink to bluish in color, and less elastic. This is a normal change, noticed by many perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, this called vaginal atrophy. Estrogens also protect the bone. Therefore, a woman can develop osteoporosis (thinning of bone) later in life when her ovaries do not produce adequate estrogen.
Q:“Male menopause” is sometimes described as a condition referred to as low testosterone or low T. True or False?
A:True. Since men do not go through a well-defined period referred to as menopause, some doctors refer to this problem as androgen (testosterone) decline in the aging male, or what some people call low testosterone. Men do experience a decline in the production of the male hormone testosterone with aging.
Q:Menopause decreases a woman's risk for depression. True or False?
A:False. Midlife is often considered a period of increased risk for depression in women. The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause can lead to depression, which can include anxiety, fears, and mood swings. Depression during perimenopause and menopause is treated in much the same way as depression that strikes at any other time.
Source quiz on MedicineNet
Improve your Health I.Q. on Menopauseback to top ↑
Menopause Related Slideshowsback to top ↑