DEAR DOCTOR K: I am in my early 40s. Over the past several months, my periods have become less regular. Sometimes my flow is lighter than normal; other times it's heavier. Is this perimenopause?
DEAR READER: It could be, though you're a bit young. As a woman approaches menopause, periods often become irregular. A woman is said to be in menopause after she has gone for one full year without periods. The transition into menopause is called perimenopause. This phase begins when a woman notices changes in her cycle, usually in her mid-40s. It ends with menopause. Perimenopause usually lasts three to five years -- but it can take as few as two years or as many as eight years for some women.