As women approach middle age, they may begin to experience changes in their menstrual cycles, mood swings, hot flashes, and other symptoms that are associated with perimenopause. Unfortunately, many women are not aware of the condition and do not receive the appropriate diagnosis or treatment for their symptoms.
Perimenopause is a transitional stage that occurs before menopause, which is defined as the point in time when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause can last for 7-10 years and during this time, hormone levels fluctuate, which can result in a range of symptoms that are often mistaken for other health conditions. The average age of menopause is 51 and perimenopausal symptoms can start between 35 - 45 years of age.
One reason why perimenopause is often misdiagnosed is that many women are not aware of the condition or the symptoms associated with it. In fact, studies have shown that only 20% of women are familiar with perimenopause, and many healthcare providers are also not trained to recognize the symptoms. Our society as a whole doesn't talk openly about this stage of live.
According to an AARP article titled, “What Doctors Don’t Know About Menopause”, a survey revealed that “Just 20 percent of ob-gyn residency programs provide any kind of menopause training. Mostly, the courses are elective. And nearly 80 percent of medical residents admit that they feel ‘barely comfortable’ discussing or treating menopause.”
Is it any suprise that of those who seek treatment, 75% leave untreated? Women are suffering and feeling dismissed.
Another reason for the misdiagnosis of perimenopause is that the symptoms can be similar to those of other health conditions, such as thyroid problems, depression, and anxiety. There is no specific blood test that defines perimenopause. Our hormones are fluctuating and typically fall in the range of normal. This can lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment, which can further exacerbate the symptoms and impact a woman's quality of life.
The North American Menopause Society recommends that healthcare providers take a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating perimenopause, which may include a thorough medical history, physical examination, and laboratory testing. It is important to seek treatment from a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP) who is familiar with the symptoms of perimenopause and can provide approriate guidance and treatment.
Treatment options for perimenopause may include lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress management techniques, as well as hormone therapy or other medications.
If you are feeling off and trying to make sense of your symptoms, please call our office at 817-915-9803.
Not in the DFW area? You can find a list of NAMS certified providers here in your area: menopause.org
North American Menopause Society. (2015). Menopause 101: A primer for the perimenopausal. Retrieved from https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/menopause-101-a-primer-for-the-perimenopausal
Santoro, N., Epperson, C. N., & Mathews, S. B. (2015). Menopausal Symptoms and Their Management. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 44(3), 497–515. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecl.2015.04.010
National Institute on Aging. (2021). Menopause. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/menopause