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Is It Perimenopause, Or Are You Just Getting Older?

Jan 8, 2008
One of the biggest problems with delineating perimenopause and menopausal symptoms is that there are usually so many other things happening at this stage in your life. As a result, it's not so easy for most women (or health professionals for that matter) to figure our what causes what. Consider how many life changes that occur at middle age: your parents become ill and die, your children leave home, gravity starts to take it's toll on your body, wrinkles begin appearing, and your body begins to start hinting at your diminishing youth and mortality. Couple that with the stress that can be brought on by all the above, and you have a sure recipe for depression (which can throw your hormone levels even further out of whack).

To compound things, there are dozens of additional physical changes your body experiences at middle age. Often, many of the symptoms you experience that are chalked up to menopause are actually just symptoms of aging. Blind studies have shown that when thousands of middle-aged men and women were asked what type of physical changes and/or symptoms they had experienced, amazingly, the only symptoms that seemed to affect women more than men were hot flashes and (obviously) vaginal dryness. All of the other possible symptoms, to include the plethora of symptoms considered as perimenopausal, affected men as much as or even more than (gasp!), women.

Many of the symptoms the experienced by the subjects of the studies conducted above were proven to simply be normal signs of aging. Examples included loss of appetite, tingling and/or crawling sensations in the skin, headaches, and difficulty with intercourse seemed to affect men and women roughly equally.

There were other experiences that did, however, seem to be related to menopause. While there had been both men and women who had experienced some sort of midlife crisis that had involved loss of confidence and difficulties in making decisions, perimenopausal women did in fact seem to have much more difficulty with these then either men or post menopausal women.

So, how do you recognize the signs and symptoms of perimenopause? Unfortunately, many of the perimenopausal symptoms are transient, but they can often be much more troubling than menopause symptoms. You may experience any or all of these symptoms in varying degrees of severity, and may also experience them differently at different times.

A few of the more common perimenopausal symptoms are:

- Hot flashes
- Night Sweats
- Insomnia
- Heavy Bleeding
- Fibroids
- Mood Swings
- Fluid Retention
- Memory Problems (i.e. "fuzzy thinking" )
- Headaches

Again, those are just the more common perimenopausal symptoms, you may experience more (or in most cases less) than the above. Keep in mind that each and every woman's physiology, environment, diet, and even stress levels can have a big impact on the severity of her symptoms. The good news is: medical science and alternative treatments are being developed every day that lesson and even negate the impact of perimenopause on your daily life.
About the Author
Dawn M. Olsen is an Advocate for Better Women's Health through Education. Visit Menopause A to Z if you need menopause support, or just need to find out more about how to approach and relieve your menopause symptoms.
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