Santoro N. Perimenopause: From Research to Practice. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Apr;25(4):332-9. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2015.5556. Epub 2015 Dec 10. PMID: 26653408; PMCID: PMC4834516.
The menopausal transition, or perimenopause, is associated with profound reproductive and hormonal changes. These changes have been well chronicled and matched with concomitant symptoms. The pattern of appearance of menopausal symptoms and their natural history have become increasingly clear thanks to the conduct of several long-term, longitudinal cohort studies that have examined many aspects of women’s biology and psychology through this time of life. Menopausal symptoms are highly prevalent; they are sufficiently bothersome to drive almost 90% of women to seek out their healthcare provider for advice on how to cope. (1) The classic symptom of menopause is the hot flash, which is experienced by most women, and is moderately to severely problematic for about 1/3 of women. While most women will have an experience of hot flashes limited to just a year or two, others will experience them for a decade or more, and a small proportion of women will never be free of them. Poor sleep becomes more common in perimenopausal women not only in association with the menopausal transition but also in relation to aging. Depressed mood and increased anxiety also increase during the transition, with an abrupt rise in prevalence as women approach the later stages of the menopausal transition and have longer bouts of amenorrhea. These common symptoms often interact with one another such that depressed women tend to experience worse hot flashes along with worse sleep. As women enter the latter stages of the transition, vaginal dryness and dyspareunia also become more likely, affecting about 1/3 of the population. Unlike hot flashes, mood issues, and sleep, vaginal symptoms will not go away without treatment. Clinical approaches to these problems often involve hormone therapy, which can be safely given to most perimenopausal women on a short-term basis. Therapeutic strategies that are nonhormonal and behavioral can also be deployed.
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