Dr. Suzanne Welsch: So, perimenopause is the time in a woman's life where some of the changes both with regards to menstrual cycle as well as some of the physical symptoms of menopause begin to occur. Now, menopause in and of itself is defined by a loss or an absence of the menstrual period for approximately six months or more, so perimenopause is the time leading up to that. So some of the symptoms we see are skipping periods or periods that actually last much longer. Instead of five days, they last for 11 or 12 days.
Sometimes we'll see the night sweats starting to occur, some hot flashes in the middle of the day. There can be some mood irritability mixed in with it. We sometimes will see also other diagnoses such as low thyroid, hypothyroidism. How long perimenopause lasts is very different depending on the woman. Some women will actually have very regular normal periods up until their last one and suddenly a month later one never comes, six months later one never comes, and they are apparently in menopause. And they've never had a hot flash. They have never had a night sweat.
Other women, it will go on for two, three, four years, where they start to see changes in their cycle, their mood, how they're sleeping, and then over the years, menopause occurs. So it really is a different entity for each person.
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