Review on October 23, 2009
Menopause symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing for a large majority of women across the USA and many medical researchers in the subject are looking for new treatments by exploring the causes of such menopause symptoms. It was previously thought that menopause symptoms were solely causes by lowering estrogen levels as the number of eggs in a woman's ovaries deplete towards the end of her reproductive life. However, new research conducted by the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) may indicate the influence of other parts of the body aging as well. For instance, the nervous system has a large influence on hormone levels throughout the body and new information collected from this study suggests that this deterioration may also bring on menopausal symptoms in women.
Researchers studied 3302 women from across the USA and from varying ethnic backgrounds. Of this group of women 680 completed this particular study to determine the true cause of menopause symptoms. All were considered to be of an older reproductive age. The women were asked to give daily urine samples, fill out a questionnaire and diary documenting their experiences of early menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disturbances.
The results are interesting as these women can effectively be split into 3 groups. The first group recorded estrogen increases during their menstrual cycles which lead to LH surges, a normal occurrence in a healthy woman of young reproductive age. The second group had strong estrogen surges but no corresponding LH surge and the third neither estrogen nor LH in high volume. The last group recorded the greatest amount of menopause symptoms. Researchers noted that the second group indicated that there was a failure of estrogen positive feedback on LH secretion. This should normally be controlled by the nervous system.
Although these results are not conclusive they do indicate that aging of the nervous system could be a factor in the onset of menopause symptoms. The third group for instance did not show any increases in estrogen or LH when compared to those of a healthy young women. This may reveal that these women have more age related damage to their nervous systems than others in the case.
Over all the research carried out into the cause of menopause and therefore menopausal symptoms is not conclusive, however it does demonstrate the need for more research to be carried out on this subject so that menopause symptoms can be more effectively treated in the future. If ageing of the nervous system is one of the main causes for menopause symptoms new treatments to elevate hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disorders may become available and help to make menopause a less stressful time for women.
- JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical AssociationJAMA. 2004;292:2991-2996.