Menopause is not a disease or a medical condition. It's a natural biological process, a life change — often called The Change — that signals the end of a woman's reproductive years. It can also be an incredibly difficult time for some women, who experience numerous physical symptoms, including the infamous hot flashes.
Although most people associate menopause with your fifties, menopause actually starts to occur in your late thirties and forties, when periods start to become increasingly irregular. This irregularity is caused by a natural decline in the body's production of estrogen and progesterone. Eventually, when you don't have a period for twelve consecutive months, you are said to have reached menopause. The majority of women will experience menopause between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five.
Some women glide through menopause without any symptoms at all, just the gradual cessation of their periods. But other women will notice several symptoms, including:
Weight gain, especially in the abdominal area
Memory and concentration problems
Spotting between periods
Mood swings and irritability
Muscle aches and pains
Hot flashes in which you feel warm in the chest and face
Dryness in the vagina
As you can see, some of these symptoms resemble those of hypothyroidism, especially weight gain and memory and concentration problems. Others such as hot flashes and muscle aches and pains may suggest hyperthyroidism. Depending on when these symptoms first occur, you may be more apt to suspect the onset of menopause than a thyroid problem.
But if you do experience these symptoms, it's important to have a thyroid test. While it's true that you may be experiencing menopause, you may also be dealing with a simultaneous thyroid disorder. Women who have a thyroid disease in menopause are at greater risk for heart disease than those without thyroid disease. They're also at increased risk for osteoporosis.