Menopause is the period of time when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and menstrual cycles have ended. A woman is considered to have gone through menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months. This typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 with an average age of 51 years. Estrogen and progesterone levels fall and as a result a woman may experience various symptoms, the most common of which are hot flashes. The 4 (on average) to 10 years leading up to the last menstrual period, called the “menopausal transition” or “perimenopause”, typically involve changes and irregularities in menstrual bleeding patterns. Women may also start experiencing hot flashes, mood symptoms, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness.
Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause and affect up to 80% of women. A hot flash, or “night sweat” if occurring at night, is felt as a sudden onset of heat on the upper chest and face that quickly spreads to the rest of the body. A woman experiencing a hot flash will typically sweat heavily, and can experience palpitations and feelings of anxiety, followed by cold and shivering. Most women will have hot flashes for at least a year, with most going away by 4-5 years, although some women still experience them for upwards of 20 years. Hot flashes and anxiety that occur at night can lead to sleep disturbances and, subsequently, depression. There are various treatment options for hot flashes, including behavioral modifications (dressing in layers, avoiding alcohol and spicy foods, weight loss), herbal therapies, complementary therapies, nonhormonal medications, and hormone therapy.
The estrogen deficiency that occurs in menopause causes changes in the vaginal skin: thinning of the skin (vaginal atrophy), diminished elasticity and lubrication, and narrowing and shortening of the vaginal canal. These changes lead to symptoms of vaginal dryness, itchiness, and pain with intercourse. Lubricants and moisturizers can help alleviate early symptoms, however the symptoms typically progress and worsen over time. There are various treatment options for vaginal atrophy including vaginal estrogen replacement and fractionated laser therapy (MonaLisa Touch Laser). Dr. DeNoble is on of the first gynecologists in Bergen County and northern New Jersey to offer the MonaLisa Touch laser procedure and performs the procedure in the office.