Most women tend to worry when the menstrual cycles suddenly start to change in length and flow. Perimenopause is a normal physiologic event experienced by most women and is not a life threatening condition. The hallmark of perimenopause is irregular periods. On most cases, the periods start to become longer and the blood flow is scant. However, this is nothing to worry about it especially if it occurs in the 40s. During the initial phase of perimenopause, periods can be heavy and one may have to frequently change the pads, but soon the flow will become scant. In some cases spotty bleeding may last anywhere from 4-8 days. Another feature of perimenopause is that the periods tend to occur less than 21 days apart.
Often these changes prompt women to visit their doctor to ensure that nothing sinister is going on. If one is worried about the symptoms, a visit to the doctor is justified. Unfortunately, there is no one test that can make a diagnosis of perimenopause. The doctor can only make a diagnosis of this disorder based on the individual's history, symptoms and physical exam. The body symptoms experienced generally are the strongest clue that perimenopause has set in. Rarely some doctors may order hormonal levels to confirm the diagnosis, sometimes thyroid hormones are also checked because deficiency of thyroid hormone can also present with similar changes.
In any case, the majority of women go through perimenopause, which may last 3-9 months and enter menopause.