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Climacteric is a term for a period of time during which a man or woman’s ability to reproduce decreases. The term comes from the Latin word climactericus, which in turn comes from the Greek word klimakterikos. The term climacteric has a long history. Its first known use was in 1582.
In women, the climacteric precedes and signals the onset of menopause. Because of this, the term climacteric is sometimes used interchangeably with the term menopause.
Climacteric is most commonly used to refer to a woman’s loss of fertility, as many men are fertile until their deaths. Women also experience more pronounced physical and emotional symptoms during the climacteric period.
Approximately four out of five women experience hot flashes during this period. Hot flashes are a sudden rush of heat felt in the body that may last anywhere from one to fifteen minutes. Many women also experience night sweats, insomnia, memory loss, and incontinence during their climacteric period. Menstruation also ceases during the climacteric period.
Emotional symptoms during the climacteric include irritability, anxiety and depression. Some of these may be hormonally induced, but the reality of losing one’s fertility and, in some cases, losing the ability to become a biological parent, may also be a factor that produces these emotions. Some women may find their desire for sexual interaction increasing as they no longer need to worry about pregnancy, while others may experience a loss of libido.