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Signs of Perimenopause
If you’re over 40 and have begun to experience irregular periods, there’s a good chance you’re entering perimenopause, which refers to the years just before the menstrual cycle stops.
“Don’t be alarmed. What you’re experiencing could simply be part of the normal aging process,” says Michael Leung, MD, FACOG, a board-certified Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.
“Typically, it’s the two- to eight-year interval as your body transitions into full menopause,” he explains. “Perimenopause usually starts in your 40s, but it can begin earlier and usually lasts about four years.”
Dr. Leung advises talking with your doctor about specific symptoms and treatment options. Along with missed or irregular periods, symptoms of perimenopause also include hot flashes, breast tenderness, and insomnia.
“To more accurately pinpoint the cause, your doctor may order blood tests to check hormonal levels,” Dr. Leung says. “If necessary, a Pap test, tissue biopsy, or a thyroid function test may be run, should other causes need to be ruled out.”
Irregular periods can also be caused by diabetes, eating disorders, emotional stress, side effects of medications, and strenuous athletic training.
“It’s important to see your OB/GYN for an annual well-woman exam. However, should you have unexpected changes in your body’s natural rhythm, don’t delay making an appointment to discuss the possible causes and treatments,” concludes Dr. Leung.