How Do I Know if it’s Menopause?
Kevin M. Audlin, M.D., is a board certified, experienced doctor and skilled surgeon in The Gynecology Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. He also serves as co-Director with Dr. Fermin Barrueto of The Endometriosis Center at Mercy, a division of The Gynecology Center, focused primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of endometrial and fibroid disorders.
In this Q&A, Dr. Audlin discusses the symptoms of menopause and how to best deal with it…
What are some of the initial physical symptoms that your body is going through menopause for the first time?
Perimenopause are the first time that patients feel like something is different. They are the same symptoms as menopause, they are just less frequent and more tolerable. Patients often have hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, tearfulness are often the classic signs. Less obvious but just as important are cardiovascular issues, increased risk of heart attack, stroke, bone loss, decreased sex drive, weight gain, hair loss and memory/attention problems.
If a woman has an irregular or missed menstrual cycle, what are some of other reasons why this could be besides menopause? And how can you tell if a missed menstrual cycle is because of menopause or something else?
Menopause is defined as 12 months of continuous missed menstrual cycles. At that time you are defined as menopausal. Any time where there are irregular cycles and or symptoms that is peri-menopause. Reasons for missed cycles that aren’t menopause are rapid weight gain/loss, extreme stress, significant changes in diet/exercise, hypothyroidism, certain chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and certain medications.
What are some mental and emotional symptoms that your body is going through menopause?
Mental and emotional symptoms are often similar to that of depression. They are tearfulness, emotional liability, inability to concentrate, insomnia and irrational thinking.
How can you be sure it is menopause for certain?
If you are without a cycle for more than a year, then it is menopause. You can draw blood work, but the hormones are a roller coaster during the last few years of the cycles, so blood work could be consistent with menopause even when a patient is still having cycles. So we treat symptoms and the definition of menopause is usually based on lack of cycle.
When should a woman see a doctor to confirm that she in fact is going through menopause?
If the patient is having a difficult time with life, work, relationships, sleep then you need to see the doctor. Otherwise if she is doing well, waiting until the routine annual examination is fine. Increased exercise, dietary changes, multivitamins are things that should be increased with menopause to help with the bones and cardiovascular system.
Any other information about women going through menopause?
Everyone goes through menopause (if you’re a woman), but not everyone has a difficult time with symptoms. The symptoms often last 3-5 years before they go away. Over the counter estrogens may help; if not, then prescription estrogen or certain anti-depression medications (Effexor or Pristiq) work well with the symptom relief.
-- Kevin M. Audlin, M.D., FACOG
Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on Facebook, Twitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.