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Perimenopause refers to the transitional period of time before menstruation actually stops, which is marked by changes in the menstrual cycle, along with other physical and emotional symptoms. Perimenopause can last 2 to 10 years and during this time the following processes are occurring within a woman's body:
Perimenopause is caused by the declining function of the ovaries. Ovulation may become erratic and then stop altogether. The menstrual cycle length and flow may become irregular before the final menses (last menstrual period).
As fluctuations of hormones occur, symptoms result from the changing levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. At times, estrogen levels may be higher, which may trigger symptoms similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). At other times, the estrogen levels may decrease, which may trigger hot flashes or night sweats. This fluctuation of estrogen levels may be interspersed with normal menstrual cycles during perimenopause. Research studies demonstrate that perimenopausal women show varying patterns of hormonal fluctuations. No two women will experience perimenopause in the same way.
The following are the most common symptoms of perimenopause. However, each woman may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of perimenopause may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Specific treatment for perimenopause will be determined by your physician based on:
More and more physicians are treating perimenopausal symptoms. These treatments may include:
Other lifestyle changes your physician may recommend include the following:
Some of the same suggestions used for coping with hot flashes in menopausal women may also be helpful for perimenopausal women. It is important to remember that herbal supplements are not subject to regulation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and, therefore, have not been tested in an FDA-approved clinical trial to prove their effectiveness in the treatment or management of medical conditions. Consult your physician about symptoms you are experiencing and discuss herbal supplements before beginning use.