The biological processes in a woman such as menstruation, pregnancy or menopause are experienced very differently. Hot flashes, poor sleep, symptoms of irritability or sadness are possible signs of menopause.
The hormonal changes, which lead to the menopause, occur in all women above a certain age, but do not necessarily produce symptoms. On average, a third of all women experience no appreciable effects, a third are appreciably affected and a third feel very burdened in their daily life by the symptoms accompanying the hormonal turbulence. The complaints affect the period centred on the years between ages 45 and 55.
The symptoms of withdrawal from oestrogen
The first signs of the approaching menopause often begin years before the actual last menstrual bleed. In the peri-menopausal period, the oestrogen level falls steadily.
The «symptoms of withdrawal» from oestrogen may include the following:
- Hot flashes
- Poor sleep
- Restlessness and mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder weakness
- Hair loss
- Thinning of the hair
Hot flashes are the most typical symptoms of menopause. Even today, it is not fully understood why women break into sweats. It is assumed that a change in the set point for thermoregulation in the diencephalon leads to the body making extreme adjustments to even small changes of internal or external temperature. Thus, on warming, the skin blood vessels dilate in order to radiate heat away. Sweating also helps to cool. If cooling occurs, then the counter-regulation results in shivering in order to produce heat.
67 % to 85 % of women are affected by so-called vasomotor complaints such as hot flashes and sweats during menopause.
Hot flashes generally take the woman by surprise that is with no obvious external trigger. A hot flash may be described as a sudden, intense feeling of heat, which usually spreads patchily over the skin of the neck and chest and may be accompanied by sweating and facial flushing. The waves of heat last two or three minutes and then progress seamlessly into an outbreak of sweating. Following a hot flash, a feeling of frosty cold can develop. The intervals between the hot flashes vary, and they recur within minutes to days. One thing is certain: they always come when you least want them too.
Body weight, profession or sleep duration have little effect upon the hot flashes, whereas coffee, hot spices and alcohol can all provoke hot flashes.
Even though hot flashes are natural events, there are treatment options, which can improve the quality of life.
Sleep disturbances can on the one hand be caused by the changes in the hormonal balance which occur during menopause. Messenger substances in the brain, which are important for driving the sleep phase, are affected, and as a result the sleep cycle is completely disrupted. On the other hand, hot flashes themselves can lead to nocturnal sweats, making an undisturbed sleep impossible. Furthermore, the mood swings and nervousness can also have an effect.
Many women notice a change in their mood during menopause. The falling levels of oestrogen remove the mood elevating effect it has on the nervous system. At the same time certain messenger substances, which should transmit signals, are not produced in sufficient amounts. Complex sequences in the central nervous system are disturbed and this disrupts the psychological balance.
Restlessness, nervousness, irritability, general unhappiness or depressive mood can be possible symptoms.
The intensity of mood swings varies from woman to woman. Some women only suffer from listlessness from time to time, while other women struggle a lot with their mood fluctuating violently. This change in behaviour can affect partner relationships, the family and the workplace.”
Vaginal dryness means a dry vulva and a reduced moistening during sexual arousal. During the menopause, the oestrogen level falls. This reduces the production of vaginal secretions. The ageing skin gets thinner and more sensitive, the perfusion worsens, the tissues lose their moistness and elasticity. During sexual intercourse, this often leads to a burning sensation or even severe pain.