Some of the more common signs of the menopause transition (a term that refers to the five or more years just prior to menopause) that may prompt a woman to seek consultation/assessment by a qualified health care professional include:
- hot flashes
- vaginal dryness
- urinary tract infections or painful urination
- stress incontinence
- night sweats
- heart palpitations
- mood changes
- anxiety and irritability
- diminished concentration
Ask your health care professional about any changes you notice. And remember, menopause is not a disease; it is another life stage. (The changes listed above have not all been scientifically proven to be related to menopause.)
To determine if you are menopausal, your health care professional will carefully make an assessment of your current symptoms and administer a thorough physical examination. You will also be asked to provide a complete medical history; be sure to include information about your family medical history, as well.
Laboratory tests may include baseline serum chemistry studies, lipid evaluation and hormonal evaluation. Other tests may include:
- pap smear
- bone density screening
- assessment of the uterine lining, when indicated
- pelvic ultrasound screening, when indicated
According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, a simple blood test measuring follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is the key laboratory test for the diagnosis of menopause. Menopause is associated with substantially increased FHS levels. For perimenopausal women, however, this FHS elevation is often intermittent, and the absolute value is too unreliable to establish true onset of menopause. It is sometimes drawn at the end of the placebo week (sugar pills) on oral contraceptives to help diagnose menopause.
The determining factor in knowing whether you have experienced menopause is if you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months.
Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)