Simply stated, a woman knows she has reached natural menopause when she has her final menstrual period; it is confirmed when a woman has missed her period for twelve consecutive months, with no pathologic cause.
The age range is anywhere between 45 to 55 years, with most women reaching menopause around the age of 51.
Menopause can occur naturally or can be induced through medical interventions, such as surgical removal of the ovaries, radiation treatments delivered to the pelvis or by medications such as chemotherapy.
Some women who have had a hysterectomy, but keep their ovaries, may still experience menopausal symptoms.
In most cases, hormone tests to see if a woman is in menopause aren’t helpful because hormone levels change continuously depending upon where a woman is in her monthly cycle.
Sometimes, a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test will be done to support a clinical diagnosis of menopause; however, this can be misleading as well because FSH levels can fluctuate from high to low during the menopause transition period.
The earliest physical changes that indicate a woman has begun the menopause transition are remarkably few.
As female hormone levels decline, a woman will notice a change in her monthly period. The change may be skipped periods, cycles that are irregular in length, frequency of bleeding or the amount of flow.
Additionally, women may experience hot flashes. However, only about one in four women will have hot flashes severe enough to prompt a doctor visit. Women may also notice dry eyes early on in their menopause transition.
As time goes on, some women will experience vaginal dryness.
Our community is fortunate to have a resource such as The Women’s Health Network at Cone Health MedCenter High Point, with a Certified Menopause Practitioner dedicated to educating women about menopause and providing exceptional treatment for women experiencing the symptoms and body changes often associated with menopause.
Dr. Deborah Schoenhoff is the medical director at the Women’s Health Network located at Cone Health MedCenter High Point.
As an internal medicine specialist, Dr. Scheonhoff also received advanced training and certification as a Certified Menopause Practitioner from the North American Menopause Society in May 2011.
She is a 1989 graduate of University of Cincinnati School of Medicine and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Moses Cone Hospital in 1994.