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Q: How Long Does Menopause Last?

A: Menopause occurs when a woman stops having menstrual cycles for one year. This happens through normal changes in reproductive hormone systems. As the egg supply ages, ovulation occurs less often and hormone levels go up and down unevenly. This can lead to changes in periods and other symptoms. In time, estrogen and progesterone levels drop enough that the menstrual cycle stops.

Some medical treatments can cause periods to stop early. Having the ovaries removed surgically, radiation therapy or chemotherapy can also trigger early menopause.

In the USA, the average age for menopause is 51, but every woman's body has its own timeline. Some women stop having periods in their mid 40's. Others continue well into their 50's.

Perimenopause is the process of change that leads up to menopause. The average length of perimenopause is 4 years. Again, the duration may vary from as little as a few months to up to 10 years! It is during this time that women may experience the symptoms of menopause. Many symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular bleeding, fatigue, trouble sleeping and mood swings eventually improve and go away. Other changes (vaginal dryness, bone loss) will persist or even worsen.

It is important to see your doctor if any menopausal symptoms become bothersome during this transition and to keep up with your annual exams to address long term health issues such as screening for heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

William Mitsos, M.D.

William Mitsos, M.D., McMurray OB/GYN Associates, can be reached at (724) 942-5420 or visit www.washingtonobgyn.net.

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