Menopause occurs due to the loss of function of the ovaries. The ovaries have a limited number of eggs and, in due course, no more eggs are left to be released from the ovaries. When this happens, a woman’s menstrual cycle ends. A woman is believed to be in menopause if she has had no menstrual periods (menses) for 12 months and there is no other probable medical cause for it.
Self-diagnosis of menopause: A woman who is in the menopausal age and has not had period for 12 consecutive months can consider herself to be in menopause. Many women do not consult a doctor to get evaluated for it as they are almost 100% certain that they have reached menopause. Rarely a woman can start to have periods once again after those 12 months. This may occur in women who had menopause due to some medical condition or chemotherapy. Some women may want to get evaluated to confirm they are in menopause. Your doctor may try to exclude other medical causes of missed menses.
What to expect from the doctor: Your doctor will take a detailed history, examine you and if needed recommend some tests. Some questions that the doctor may ask are:
Before you go to consult your doctor, it is important to keep track of symptoms you're experiencing. It is useful to note down the symptoms, the frequency with which you experience them in a day or week and how severe they are. Discuss regarding all your medications and vitamin supplements with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to diagnose menopause based on your age and the signs and symptoms you experience. Rarely further evaluation may be recommended.
Hormonal level testing: If needed the doctor may check the level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen (estradiol) with a blood test. However, in most cases, tests to check levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen (estradiol) are not done. During menopause, blood FSH levels increase and estradiol levels decrease. But these tests are not reliable as your hormone levels may fluctuate from one day to the next. For some women, blood tests to determine the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone may also be done as hypothyroidism (low thyroid level) can cause symptoms such as menopause.
Over-the-counter FSH kits: Kits to measure FSH levels in the urine are now available in medical stores. The home kits give you the comfort and privacy of your house. But the kits cannot accurately diagnose that you are in menopause before you have missed your period for 12 months in a row. In fact by this time you already know you are in menopause, and the kits really don't give you any new information.
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