Menopause is said to appear when you go without a single menstruation cycle for six months. It is clinically confirmed only when one goes without periods for complete one year. At times, women with menopausal symptoms are referred by doctors as not going through menopause as it could be linked to some other health ailments.
Most women show start of menopausal symptoms between 45 to 47 years of age, many years before it actually happens. In majority of cases, menopausal stage can be well defined by doctor with the onset of symptoms, age and health state. As soon as a woman observes loss of menstruation cycle, she must consult the doctor to ensure whether it is the actual start of menopause or not.
Tests To Confirm Menopause Phase
In majority of cases, self diagnosis in consultation with gynecologist helps to judge if menopause has begun. The menopausal symptoms experienced by women are enough for menopause diagnosis. Furthermore, doctor will also examine vaginal pH levels to confirm menopause. During reproductive years, vaginal pH is 4.5 and during menopause it alters to pH 6.
In case, doctor suspects any associated health problem like thyroid malfunctioning or ovarian failure to be the cause of false menopausal signs, he/she may order for further testing to rule out disease possibility. A blood test for determination of FSH levels may be advised to confirm menopause. Moreover, a thyroid stimulating test and a lipid profile for checking proper functioning of kidney and liver may also be performed under certain cases.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Test
A blood test is performed to check levels of estrogen and follicle stimulating hormone. FSH is released by anterior pituitary gland, which stimulates egg maturation and estradiol hormone release. During menopause phase FSH levels increases remarkably and there is a drop in estrogen levels. For women in child bearing ages, the test is performed at a few specific days of the cycle. FSH levels help to confirm menopause and also test for any sign of reproductive pituitary disorders that could be the real cause for observable symptoms.
In women using contraceptive pills, follicle test will not be useful as pills alter the hormonal levels. In such cases, it is not a reliable test for assessing menopause. If doctor suspects any thyroid abnormality, thyroid stimulating hormone test can be advised as hypothyroidism may also be the cause for symptoms that are similar to menopausal symptoms.
Estradiol is another form of estrogen that is vital for growth of fallopian tubes, uterus and vagina and also promotes breast development. It is produced by pituitary gland and ovaries.
The estradiol testing determines the ovary function and confirms estradiol levels. Under normal menstrual cycles, estradiol varies with different points of the cycle and when ovaries stop functioning, estradiol levels decrease. Hence, low levels, lower than 30pg/ml of blood indicates that menopause has arrived.
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) Test
TSH is produced by pituitary that helps to stabilize the blood levels of thyroid hormones and any dysfunction of pituitary gland may increase or decrease TSH levels in the blood. TSH abnormal levels produce symptoms that are very much similar to those of menopause. Hence, TSH testing will clarify the cause of symptoms as hypothyroidism or menopause.