Serious Menopause Symptoms

Symptoms That Can Be Dangerous

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Menopause is a time of shifting hormones and annoying symptoms – some of which can interfere with your life. Hot flashes interrupt sleep, vaginal dryness interferes with your love life, and mood swings make mince meat out of your relationships. But most of these dramatic and troublesome symptoms are treatable, or at least temporary.

But some symptoms of menopause are more than just annoying. When estrogen and progesterone levels drop, it can cause changes in your body that are dangerous to your health.

Some of these might slip by unnoticed, bowing to the more dramatic night sweats or mood meltdowns.

Once you’ve entered perimenopause , it’s important to pay attention to changes in your body. Some changes can signal real trouble. In particular, watch for these signs or changes:

Heavy Bleeding

If your periods have become increasing heavy, start keeping track. Conditions such as fibroid tumors or uterine polyps can cause serious blood loss. Pay attention for a couple of cycles, and if you find that you are changing a maxi pad or super tampon more than once an hour for more than 8 hours, you could be bleeding enough to cause anemia. Make an appointment with your health care provider if you are bleeding that much with your periods.

Depression

The hormone changes in menopause can trigger depression, especially if you have a personal or family history of it. Even if you have not had problems with depression in the past, the stresses and hormone shifts that come at this time of life can overwhelm your ability to cope.

Sometimes the combination of situations and hormones will send you into a depression despite your best efforts to manage your mood. Make an appointment with your health care provider if you notice that you:

  • Cry more than usual
  • Feel hopeless or overwhelmingly anxious
  • Have thoughts about dying or hurting yourself
  • Can’t enjoy things you used to, including sex
  • Lose your appetite
  • Have a weight gain or loss that you can’t really explain
  • Are irritable or angry more than usual

Confide in a close friend or family member when you suspect that you may be depressed. If you need a little moral support to see a doctor or counselor, ask your friend, husband or partner to go with you to the first appointment.

Heart Palpitations That Don’t Go Away

Heart palpitations -- that irregular little pittery-pat in your chest that comes from time to time -- can be a normal adjustment to your changing hormones. But menopause is also a time when heart disease can begin to rear its head so if your palpitations come several times a day or last for more than 30 seconds it’s time to see your doctor.

And if they are ever accompanied by chest pain, a burning sensation, difficult breathing, sweating, fatigue or sudden anxiety call 911 – that could be a heart attack!

High Blood Pressure

After the age of 50 women catch up with men in the "heart disease" department.

High blood pressure might be the first sign that your cardiovascular system is beginning to show some wear and tear. As your estrogen decreases, the walls of your blood vessels may become less flexible. This can cause your blood pressure to rise, which is a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Blood pressure can climb slowly, unannounced. Or it can suddenly be quite high, without any obvious symptoms. When you begin to see signs of menopause:

Get your blood pressure checked at least every 6 months. You can do it at a local drug store, fire station or your doctor’s office, but try to have it done at the same place each time so you can compare it reliably.

See your health care provider right away if you find you are having:

  • Headaches that are more often or severe than usual
  • Trouble with your vision
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Problems with breathing, either at rest or after exercise
  • Any sort of chest pain
  • Light headedness or fainting
  • Periods of confusion
  • Blood in your urine

While these are obvious signs of a problem, high blood pressure can also have no symptoms at all. As you approach the age of menopause, have your blood pressure screened regularly so you can get treatment at the first signs of trouble.

You will need time to adjust to and understand your “new” body, and paying attention to symptoms can help you find health problems early. Menopause is a great excuse to start taking good care of yourself.

Sources:

Oriel, K,MD, Schrager, S MD, "Abnormal Uterine Bleeding," American Family Physician 1 Oct. 1999. 10 Oct. 2007.

Gaunt, AM, Mayeaux, E MD, "Diagnosis and Management of Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding" CME Bulletin, American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Aug. 2007, Vol.6, No.6, 10 Oct. 2007.

Rosano, GMC, Vitale, C, Marrazzi, G, Volterrani,M, "Menopause and Cardiovascular Disease: The Evidence," Climacteric, 2007, Volume 10, Issue S1, 19-24. 10 Oct. 2007

Matthews, KA PhD, et al, "Changes in Cardiovascular Risk Factors During the Perimenopause and Postmenopause and Carotid Artery Atherosclerosis in Healthy Women, Stroke, 2001;32;1104-1111. 10 Oct. 2007

Mazure, CM, Keita, GP, & Blehar, MC, Summit on Women and Depression: Proceedings and Recommendations. American Psychological Assoc. April. 2002, 10 Oct. 2007.

National Institute on Aging, "New Interventions for Menopausal Symptoms, Meeting Summary," 25 July, 2007. 10 Oct. 2007.

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