Menopause is the time when periods stop permanently either due to a gradual natural processes or abruptly when induced by artificial means (surgery or radiation). Prior to the final menstrual period there is a transitional time, perimenopause, lasting up to eight years. During this time most women begin missing periods and their menstrual cycles lengthen. A woman is usually considered postmenopausal 12 months after her last period. The entire menopausal process can take up to thirteen years. Menopausal signs and symptoms are due to the body's inability to respond to a decrease in oestrogen, progesterone and possibly androgens such as testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Other hormonal changes include an increase in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Signs and symptoms of the menopause can include any of the following: irregular and/or heavy periods breast tenderness and swelling dry vagina low libido hot flushes and night sweats anxiety and agitation depression lethargy mood swings behaviour or feelings, which are out of character impaired memory, concentration and vagueness bloating headaches/migraine heart palpitations itchy skin insomnia thinning and ageing of the skin and/or hair weight gain In addition to the fluctuations in hormone levels, other possible causes of menopausal discomfort may include adrenal exhaustion and impaired liver function. If you think you may be experiencing the menopause, a blood test can be arranged for you, which will tell you what your hormone levels are.

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