Doctors use a physical examination and medical history to determine if a patient is menopausal, according to MedicineNet. Sometimes doctors also run laboratory tests to look for elevated follicle-stimulating hormone levels and lowered estrogen levels, which often correlate with the onset of menopause, notes Mayo Clinic. However, there are no test levels that conclusively prove that a woman is menopausal; doctors define menopause as the absence of a menstrual cycle for 12 months, explains MedicineNet.
To decide if a patient is menopausal, a doctor inquires about any symptoms the woman might have, according to Mayo Clinic. Common symptoms of menopause are irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and loss of breast fullness. Women also may experience night sweats or other sleep problems, mood changes, weight gain due to a slower metabolism, and thinning hair.
A doctor may order a thyroid test to eliminate the possibility that the thyroid caused symptoms often attributed to menopause, explains Healthline. The doctor may also check for an elevated pH level within the vagina, which could confirm menopause.
Prior to menopause, women experience perimenopause, which begins when the ovaries slow estrogen production, notes WebMD. Perimenopause lasts an average of four years but can conclude over the course of a few months or linger for over a decade. During the last one to two years of perimenopause, estrogen levels can drop significantly, which can indicate that menopause may begin soon. Women also may begin to experience symptoms of menopause.