Symptoms of perimenopause vary widely from one woman to another. Common symptoms include:
- Cold hands and feet
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Emotional or psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, nervousness or irritability which may be related to changing of hormones or to the stress of aging and changing roles
- Hot flashes or flushes and sweating affect 75% of women. The flash may last from 30 seconds to five minutes and may be followed by chills
- Intermittent dizziness, prickly sensations on the skin or rapidly beating heart
- Memory loss
- Weight gain
In the time leading up to menopause, a woman's monthly periods tend to become less frequent before they completely stop.
- However, for some women, the bleeding becomes more frequent and heavier.
- Women's cycles become less regular.
- Changes in a woman's body occur, including:
- An urgent and more frequent need to go to the bathroom
- Difficulty or pain during sexual intercourse
- Loss of pelvic muscle tone
- Loss of interest in sex
- Sex organs such as the uterus, the ovaries and the outer genitals (labia minora and clitoris) shrink
- Swelling, redness and tenderness of the lining of the vagina
- Thinning of the lining of the vagina and the skin of the vulva
- Vaginal dryness
Causes and Risk Factors
Menopause is caused by falling hormones as the ovaries begin to stop producing eggs. As the ovaries age, they grow less responsive to the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) produced by the pituitary gland.
As a result, a woman's menstrual cycle becomes shorter. She releases eggs from the ovaries (ovulates) less often. Her cycle becomes less regular.
In time, the follicle fails to respond at all and doesn't produce estrogen. This sets off a series of hormonal changes.