What is menopause?

Updated: Jun 06, 2018
  • Author: PonJola Coney, MD; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
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Menopause, by definition, is the final menstrual period. It is a universal and irreversible part of the overall aging process as it involves a woman’s reproductive system. Menopause is diagnosed after 12 months of amenorrhea and is characterized by a myriad of symptoms that include, but are not limited to, changes from regular, predictable menses; vasomotor and urogenital symptoms such as vaginal dryness and dyspareunia; and sleep and mood dysfunction. [1, 2]

Hormonal changes and clinical symptoms occur over a period leading up to and immediately following menopause. This period is frequently termed the climacteric or perimenopause but is increasingly referred to by a more recently coined name, the menopausal transition (MT). [1, 2] The MT characteristically begins years before menopause.

Along with the increase in the number of middle-aged and older individuals, there is a concomitant and continuing rise in the number of women who live most of their lives in a hypoestrogenic state. More and more women can expect to live approximately 79 years and to experience the consequences of gonadal steroid hormone loss.

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