Objective: Around and after menopause, several indefinite symptoms, so-called climacteric symptoms, appear. These symptoms are influenced by many factors, including hormonal status, aging, and psychosocial conditions. But, these factors are complex and interrelated. To investigate the effects of aging, we reevaluated climacteric symptoms, especially physical symptoms of Japanese women.
Design and Methods: Subjects were 388 postmenopausal Japanese women who visited our menopause clinic. All of the subjects had natural menopause. Data from 52 women in their 40s (mean age ± SD 47.3 ± 1.7 years, periods after menopause ± SD 2.4 ± 2.1 years), 138 women in the first half of their 50s (52.3 ± 1.3 years, 2.9 ± 2.4 years), 137 women in the second half of their 50s (56.8 ± 1.5 years, 6.0 ± 4.1 years), and 61 in their 60s (64.3 ± 4.1 years, 14.3 ± 7.0 years) were recorded. There was no significant difference in the period after menopause between the 52 women in their 40s and that of the 138 women in the first half of their 50s. Climacteric symptoms were objectively assessed at the first visit by use of the Keio Climacteric Questionnaire, which grades the severity of 29 physical and 11 psychological symptoms.
Results: In general, the prevalence of symptoms increased through the late half of the subjects’ 50s but decreased in their 60s. Among the 40 symptoms assessed by the Keio Climacteric Questionnaire, general fatigue was the most severe one for women in their 40s and 50s but not for women in their 60s. On the other hand, forgetfulness increased with age and was the most severe symptom among women in their 60s. Shoulder stiffness maintained a high severity score in all age groups. The prevalence of seven symptoms (hot flashes, sweating, joint pain, irritability, numbness, vaginal dryness, and dysphagia) was significantly higher in women in the first half of their 50s than those in their 40s. For women in their 60s, the prevalence of three of these symptoms (hot flashes, sweating, and irritability) decreased significantly, but that of other symptoms showed no significant change. From the first half of their 50s to the 60s, the prevalence of lumbago, loss of hair, and wrinkled skin significantly increased, while that of other symptoms was stable or decreased.
Conclusion: Among climacteric symptoms of Japanese postmenopausal women, it is thought that aging more strongly influences joint pain, numbness, vaginal dryness, and dysphagia, which are all in the category of physical symptoms. As lumbago, loss of hair, and wrinkled skin, which are also physical symptoms, seemed to be more prevalent in older age groups, it is necessary to manage these symptoms in the early stages of menopause to help maintain patients’ quality of life.