The transition to menopause begins with perimenopause. This period starts 8 to 10 years prior to menopause. The symptoms commonly known as menopause symptoms, actually start during perimenopause and carry over into menopause and postmenopause.
How long do symptoms last during menopause? Commonly, the symptoms last 4 to 5 years. However, some women might experience them for a shorter period of time, while the others might have them for well over 10 years.
Let’s take a closer look at how menopause can impact your life.
The most common menopause symptoms include hot flashes, cold flashes, mood swings, vaginal changes, insomnia, and changes in your bone structure. While unpleasant, the occurrence of these symptoms is quite normal. Your genetics, overall health, and lifestyle contribute to what symptoms you will experience during menopause.
Menopause symptoms are caused by sharp drops in estrogen levels and their intensity and frequency varies greatly from woman to woman. Usually, the symptoms tend to decrease in intensity and frequency as the years pass.
Some women experience very mild symptoms and transition into postmenopause easily. On the other hand, some women report their symptoms lasting well into their sixties and even seventies.
Hot flashes are the most common menopause symptom. The vast majority of women experience them and they most typically start at the onset of the perimenopause period. They can happen from a couple of times a month to several times a day. A flash can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
A study published in 2012 concluded that hot flashes last around 10 years on average, which is considerably longer than the widely accepted time frame of 4 to 5 years. A study published the same year found that African American women and overweight women of any ethnicity tend to experience hot flashes for a longer period of time than other women.
To manage hot flashes, you might want to avoid spicy food, smoking, and alcohol. Consider dressing in layers and have a small fan at home and at work. Having a personal bedside fan is also a good idea. Breathe slowly and deeply when a hot flash occurs, and remove a layer of clothing.
Cold flashes typically happen after hot flashes, when your body starts to cool down. You might experience cold feet, shivers, and chills. Since they’re caused by hot flashes, they tend to occur with the same frequency. They typically last as long as the hot flashes.
When you experience a cold flash, you should put on a layer of clothes. You might also want to close the window or raise the temperature on your AC a couple of degrees.
Along with hot flashes, emotional changes are the most common symptoms of menopause. These might include depression, irritability, anxiety, and mood swings.
Emotional changes start during the perimenopause period, when the levels of estrogen and other hormones start to fluctuate. Their duration and intensity largely depend on the woman’s level of physical activity and her overall health.
A regular exercise routine can help greatly reduce the frequency and severity of mood swings during menopause. The best options include tai chi and yoga. You might also want to give meditation a chance and try reducing stress. Also, consider avoiding large meals and afternoon naps.
Lifestyle changes usually make a considerable difference. If they’re not sufficient, cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, and HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can help.
Vaginal Dryness and Sex Life Changes
Many women experience vaginal changes during menopause. Vaginal dryness, a low libido, discomfort during sex, and an urgent need to urinate might signal you’re suffering from GSM (genitourinary syndrome of menopause).
You can manage vaginal dryness with OTC lubricants and vaginal moisturizers. Use the former during sex and the latter every few days. If they don’t help, your doctor might prescribe medication.
Many women start experiencing night sweats during the perimenopause period. These symptoms are tied to the occurrence of hot flashes during the night. Night sweats can wake you up and make you feel extra tired in the morning.
Their intensity and frequency tend to match the hot flashes. To make night sweats more bearable, sleep in a dark, cool room. Decreasing the levels of stress and adopting healthy lifestyle habits can significantly lessen this problem.
Insomnia is closely tied with emotional changes and hot flashes. The severity and frequency of sleep problems differs from woman to woman. Treat hot flashes and introduce some healthier habits in order to regulate your sleep patterns.
Due to the lower levels of estrogen in their bodies, some women develop osteoporosis during menopause. Their bones become weaker and more fragile. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to fight off osteoporosis.
A regular exercise regimen and a healthy diet rich in veggies, fruits, and other sources of calcium are essential in keeping your bones strong. Vitamin D supplements can help a great deal, and you can also decrease alcohol consumption and stop smoking.
When to See the Doctor
In addition to the symptoms discussed above, a number of women experience unpleasant changes during perimenopause. These can include breast tenderness, dry skin, heavy PMS, a dry mouth or eyes, lighter periods, or heavier periods. Occasionally, women also gain weight, develop joint and muscle aches, experience headaches and memory issues, and so on.
Many of these additional symptoms can be treated. And if you think you might be developing osteoporosis, heart disease, or a urinary infection, you should speak to a doctor about your options.
Cervical cancer and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) can cause symptoms that might easily be mistaken for menopause symptoms. For instance, these conditions lead to excessively heavy or irregular periods, periods with blood clots, bleeding and spotting after menstruation or sex. If you notice any of these, go see your doctor.
What’s the Takeaway?
How long do symptoms last during menopause? Typically, they recede after five years, though in some cases they might last over a decade. Your lifestyle and body weight have some impact on this, and changing your habits can ease menopause a great deal.
How long do symptoms last during menopause? What exactly can you expect? Read on to learn all about menopause symptoms, how to alleviate them, and when to call your doctor.