Usually around the time that women reach their late 40s or early 50s, they may notice changes occurring in their body. This is because the reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are no longer being produced within the body. This transitional phase is known as menopause and while some women may go through menopause without any symptoms or issues, some women deal with a variety of unpleasant and even severe symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and joint pain.
While hot flashes are the most common complaint when it comes to menopause symptoms, there are a variety of issues that women can experience including:
- Muscle/joint pain
- Irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Vaginal infections
- Loss of sex drive
- Sexual pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary incontinence or leakage
- Night sweats
- Poor concentration and memory (“mental fog”)
If you are a middle-aged woman who hasn’t had a period in over one year and is dealing with these issues, you could be facing menopause. Of course, it’s important that you have an OBGYN that you can turn to if symptoms become too challenging to handle on your own. While a gynecologist can certainly recommend a variety of lifestyle modifications and simple ways to alleviate symptoms, sometimes more aggressive treatment is necessary.
Certain lifestyle modifications may include exercising regularly, getting enough sleep each night or avoiding alcohol to help with depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Your gynecologist can prescribe a lubricant to help with vaginal dryness and discomfort. Physical therapy or certain medical treatments may be prescribed to improve the function of the pelvic floor to reduce urinary leakage and incontinence.
Many menopausal women dealing with menopausal symptoms can experience relief through hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Since the body is no longer producing estrogen and progesterone, HRT will serve to restore those hormones back into the body to reduce common symptoms such as hot flashes. Furthermore, HRT has been shown to reduce bone loss caused by osteoporosis, which is common in women post-menopause. Plus, HRT is also known to reduce common symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness and pain.
There are a few different ways in which HRT can be administered. Estrogen can come in the form of a gel, cream, spray, patch, or pill. Of course, systemic estrogen has been proven to be the most effective way to target symptoms of menopause.
Women dealing with severe hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms, women who are prone to osteoporosis or fractures, and women who experience menopause before the age of 40 may want to consider getting hormone replacement therapy.
If you are sexually active, getting regular STI screenings is a crucial and proactive practice to adopt for both your health and the health of your future partners. It’s important to know if you have an STI so that the infection can be treated or managed before more serious health complications set in. While using condoms, being monogamous and avoiding risky behaviors can go a long way to keeping you healthy and safe from infection, it’s important that everyone who is sexually active continue to get screened, no matter their age.
When To Get Tested
It’s important to get routine screenings even if you feel fine and aren’t experiencing symptoms, as many people with STIs don’t ever experience symptoms. Even when symptoms do arise it’s easy to mistake them for less serious issues such as the common cold or flu virus. Did you know that some STIs present with a fever, sore throat and muscle aches? What might seem like the regular influenza virus could actually be an STI. Furthermore, it’s not that uncommon to be exposed to more than one STI at a time. So, you could have multiple infections and not know it.
While a lot of people feel nervous or even embarrassed to get STI screenings, having an OBGYN or medical doctor that you trust is the most important. Trust us; they’ve heard it all, so you should feel comfortable talking to your doctor about your sexual health. Being as honest as possible about your current or past sexual history is important to make sure you get the proper medical care.
Even though untreated STIs can lead to more serious health problems down the road, the good news is that many STIs can easily be treated if the infection is caught early enough. Even incurable STIs like hepatitis, herpes, and HIV can be managed through simple lifestyle changes and medications to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms and to improve your quality of life.
Even if you come in once a year for a wellness checkup or Pap smear, this doesn’t mean that you are getting screened for an STI. Of course, during your routine exam you can ask to also be screened for STIs. If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, having an untreated STI can cause serious health risks for your unborn child.
It’s important that you get regular STI testing to ensure that you and your partners enjoy a safe and healthy lifestyle!
Getting older means overcoming many different obstacles as your life and your body change. But you must deal with one that is uniquely female: menopause and the symptoms that come with it. You know the symptoms commonly associated with menopause—hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, vaginal dryness—but did you know that they are treatable and that menopause doesn’t have to be insurmountable?
If you have moderate to severe symptoms, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an effective treatment for hot flashes and can also help elevate vaginal dryness and mood issues. It has traditionally been administered with pills like birth control, but also like birth control it can now be taken through patches, creams, gels, and vaginal rings. If you have not had a hysterectomy, you could be prescribed estrogen and progesterone, called combination HRT. If you have had a hysterectomy, estrogen alone would be prescribed.
Not all women are candidates for HRT. Those who have breast or uterine cancer, blood clots, heart or liver disease, or have had a stroke would be better candidates for the following options.
Vaginal estrogen is a lower dose of estrogen that comes as a cream, tablet, or ring and is placed in the vagina to treat vaginal dryness if you don’t have hot flashes. Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers are non-prescription options to treat dryness as well. Lubricants can help decrease friction and ease intercourse, but be sure to only use water-soluble products designed for the vagina to avoid irritating tender tissue. Moisturizers can improve or maintain vaginal moisture if you have mild vaginal atrophy and can also keep your pH level low, ensuring a healthy vaginal environment. They can also be used regularly with longer-lasting effects than lubricants.
Prescription antidepressant medications are often used to treat mood problems, like depression, with relatively few side effects. They have also been used to treat hot flashes. However, if you are having mood issues, be sure to talk with your doctor to identify the cause and decide on the best treatment.
You’d be surprised how far simple lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet and regularly exercising, can go in minimizing menopause symptoms. Wearing light-weight pajamas, using layered bedding that can easily be removed, and using a fan in your bedroom can help with night sweats while keeping a regular sleep schedule and nighttime routine can make falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
The onset of menopause is a big change, and dealing with its symptoms can be daunting. But you don’t have to take on this new phase in your life alone. No matter if you are suffering severe symptoms or you just have some questions of what to expect as you get older, our office is here to help. Call to schedule your appointment today.
As you might imagine, women’s bones are smaller than men’s, which puts women at a risk for developing osteoporosis, a chronic condition that causes a loss of bone density and can leave women prone to fractures. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 80 percent of Americans with osteoporosis are women and half of women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Why does osteoporosis mostly affect women? During childbearing years, your body produces estrogen, a hormone that is not only implemental in your reproductive and sexual health but also serves to protect your bones; however, as women approach menopause their estrogen production decreases drastically, which makes women prone to fractured and broken bones.
Fortunately, your gynecologist and women’s health team are instrumental in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. Bone density is influenced by many factors including hormone levels, lifestyle, nutrition, medications, health problems, and genetics. Common risk factors include:
- Family history
- History of broken bones/fractures
- Poor nutrition
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Lack of calcium or other vitamins in your diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Low body mass index (BMI) and weight
The good news about osteoporosis is that it can be prevented through proper screenings and medications/therapies used to slow the progress of osteoporosis. Your initial screening will provide the information you need to help you and your gynecological team make an informed decision about the type of treatment options available to you. An X-ray is the most common diagnostic tool for checking the density level of your bones.
Getting an osteoporosis screening is highly recommended for all postmenopausal women (women 65 years old or older). If a woman is at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, she may want to consider getting screened even earlier.
Osteoporosis treatment will include lifestyle changes along with medications/treatments. Simple everyday measures you can take to lessen your chances of bone fractures include:
- Making sure you get enough Vitamin D and calcium in your diet
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly (include both cardio and strength training)
- Quit smoking
There are also a variety of different prescription medications on the market (also known as bisphosphonates) that can aid in preventing bone loss. Along with medications, your gynecologist may also recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which will supply your body with the estrogen it needs to both prevent and treat osteoporosis.
Approximately, one in eight American women will develop breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. In fact, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in US women, according to the CDC. Of course, if breast cancer is detected early, many women will have the ability to treat cancer successfully and go on to lead long, healthy lives. Of course, one of the goals of your OBGYN is to make sure you get the care you need to stay healthy.
When you think of visiting your gynecologist you may only think about pelvic exams, but remember that breast exams are also part of your routine visit. These exams are important because they are one of the best and easiest screening tools we have for early detection of breast cancer. In essence, this simple trip to your gynecologist could just end up saving your life. The earlier breast cancer is detected the greater chance there is to catch the problem before it spreads.
Along with getting annual breast exams from your gynecologist you should also perform breast self-exams at least once a month. While many symptoms don’t manifest themselves in the very beginning, if something feels off it’s important that you turn to your doctor right away. These breast exams are necessary for women of all ages, regardless of whether risk factors are present.
Of course, there are some women who are at an increased risk when it comes to breast cancer. Remember, your family history matters. If you have a close relative like a sibling, child, or mother who has had breast cancer this also increases your risk. It’s important that you let your doctors and gynecologist know this prior to your screening. A gynecologist may recommend getting routine mammograms at a younger age, depending on your risk factors.
While the debate is still out about whether women should get mammogram screenings beginning at age 50 or whether women should start at 40 years old, it’s important that you are performing monthly self-exams, visiting your OBGYN for your annual checkup and beginning a routine mammogram schedule when necessary. Talk to your gynecologist and other physicians about the right breast cancer screening schedule for you.
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