The menopause is something no woman likes to think about. While it typically occurs in women over the age of 50, it can also present early for many patients, sometimes even in their early 20s.
Prior to entering the menopause, it’s common for women to experience symptoms, sometimes many years before the actual menopause kicks in. This is referred to as perimenopause and it can wreak havoc on the body. So, how can you tell if you’re going through the menopause? Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know.
Common changes which occur in the lead up to the menopause
In the months or years leading up to the menopause, you may start to experience some changes within the body. These include:
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
Some of the menopause symptoms above can pinpoint other issues, which is why many women miss the initial signs of perimenopause.
Hot flushes are one of the most common menopause symptoms, though not every woman will experience them. You’ll basically start to feel really hot very suddenly, causing the skin to flush and your heart rate to quicken. This hot spell disappears just as quickly as it began, and they tend to be most common at night time.
By far one of the most tell-tale signs you’re heading towards the menopause, is when your periods start to become more irregular. They could become heavier or lighter and last for longer or shorter periods of time. The irregularity of your periods can make it difficult to get pregnant. It’s worth noting that some medications and treatments can cause your periods to become irregular, so it is worth seeking advice from a doctor before dismissing it as the menopause.
What menopause tests are available?
If you are concerned you are heading towards the change of life, there are menopause tests which can be done to confirm or dismiss your concern. Saliva tests used to be provided, but these typically have very low accuracy rates. So, healthcare professionals tend to use follicle-stimulating hormone testing.
Follicle stimulating hormone testing is a blood test which identifies the FSH levels within the blood. However, there are many things which can affect the outcome of this menopause test. During perimenopause, oestrogen and FSH levels tend to fluctuate, making it difficult to achieve accurate results. Unless the woman is actively in menopause, the FSH blood test isn’t going to accurately identify the issue.
Seeking treatment for menopausal symptoms
The best way to determine whether or not you are heading towards the menopause, is to have a full health check. This includes looking over your medical history and menopausal history, alongside the signs and symptoms you’re experiencing.
Menopause itself is diagnosed when you have gone 12 months without a period. However, any perimenopausal symptoms you do experience should be checked over by a doctor to ensure it isn’t down to any other medical condition. Changes in periods should especially be assessed professionally as they can potentially point to a more sinister problem.
As you can see, it can be difficult to diagnose perimenopause. However, the symptoms above can be a clear sign you’re heading towards the menopause. Be sure to have any symptoms checked out as soon as you can and arrange menopause tests as there are treatments available which can help you to manage the side effects.