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Factors influencing menopausal symptoms FACTORS INFLUENCING MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
The menopause is a time of transition, a nudge that sets us thinking about what is behind us and what we want from the years ahead. Both the internal changes of our bodies and their interaction with other factors in our lives seem to influence the symptoms of menopause that we experience.
HORMONE LEVELS There is no doubt that problems such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness are associated with the sex hormone changes of the menopause. Hot flushes have been linked with rising levels in a brain hormone called luteinising hormone and falling levels in the most powerful form of oestrogen, oestradiol. The changed balance of hormones also helps to explain symptoms of vaginal dryness and urinary frequency. Hormones are not the only controller of symptoms, however.
ANXIETY Sudden bouts of anxiety seem to be linked with hot flushes in some women. The more anxious you feel the more likely you are to have hot flushes.
SEXUAL ACTIVITY Even though vaginal dryness and painful intercourse are often blamed for reduced sexual activity and arousal in women after menopause, it is not clear which is the cause and which the effect. Research suggests that women who don't often have sex tend to have more problems with vaginal dryness than those who have it frequently. In addition, the more often a menopausal woman is sexually aroused and active, the more easily natural vaginal lubrication is achieved, and the more comfortable and enjoyable sex tends to be.
The use of vaginal lubricants and 'male dew', or hormone therapy, may break the cycle of discomfort that is sometimes associated with sexual activity, and result in the release of natural lubricants. This is not to suggest that arousal is merely a physical matter; psychological influences to do with mood, touch, words and images are also important. Libido is not merely a matter of hormones. What is in your head and heart will also affect your interest in sex, and such things are not dependent on HRT. Interestingly, sex may have an influence beyond stimulation in preventing genital dryness as, according to research conducted by family planning authority Professor Egon Diczfalusy from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, semen itself- absorbed through the vaginal walls — is a rich source of oestrogen.
STRESS Extreme demands on physical and mental energy, loosely termed stress, increase the tendency to flush. Hot and stuffy rooms, excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine, a poor diet, sleep deprivation and thyroid disorders are common stress-related triggers of hot flushes.
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