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.
These chemical messengers are certainly important for a healthy body and mind. While there are various hormones being produced by the endocrine system, each hormone has a different role to play when it comes to your health.
For women, estrogen and progesterone are the two main hormones to consider when it comes to sexual health, menstruation, and pregnancy. While it is normal for hormone levels to fluctuate a bit here and there, if your hormones are completely off kilter this could lead to fertility issues, painful heavy period and other health problems.
So, what can cause a hormonal imbalance? There are many factors that can play into your hormone levels. These factors include:
- Chronic health problems (e.g. diabetes)
- High levels of stress
- A poor or lacking diet
- Thyroid issues
What are some signs that you could be dealing with a hormone imbalance? While the problems below can also be indicative of other issues, it’s important to talk to your gynecologist about checking your hormone levels if you are experiencing:
- Sleep disturbances (e.g. insomnia)
- Irregular periods
- Excessive fatigue
- Difficulty with memory (feeling “foggy-headed”)
- Gastrointestinal issues (e.g. bloating; nausea; stomach discomfort; diarrhea)
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Increased appetite
- Decreased sex drive
As you can see, if your estrogen or progesterone levels are off this can lead to a lot of issues, both physically and mentally. While dealing with a hormonal imbalance can certainly be frustrating, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to just put up with these symptoms. There are many ways in which your gynecologist can help get your hormones back on track. There are medications, lifestyle adjustments and alternative therapies that can all aid in improving your imbalance.
The most common medication prescribed for treating a hormonal imbalance is a synthetic or bioidentical hormone. Hormone replacement therapy is often recommended for menopausal women, as estrogen and progesterone production begins to slow considerably around this time.
If you suspect that you have a hormonal imbalance, it’s important that you have an OBGYN in which you can trust to get to the bottom of the symptoms you are experiencing. It’s important to listen to your body so you know when things are amiss.
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on one or both ovaries. This is a common condition that affects most women at some point during their childbearing years. Many times, ovarian cysts won’t cause any symptoms at all; however, if the cyst is larger you may experience some abdominal pain, bloating, nausea or pain with intercourse.
You may find that ovarian cysts appear more often around your menstrual cycle. They are also more likely to develop in those with hormonal imbalances, those taking fertility treatments, women who are pregnant, women who have endometriosis and women who have a history of ovarian cysts.
Most ovarian cysts are completely harmless and will go away on their own without the need for special care or treatment; however, if a cyst ruptures this can cause some pretty serious symptoms that should be addressed right away. If you are dealing with sudden or severe abdominal pain, or if you have abdominal pain that is accompanied by vomiting or a fever then you need to call your gynecologist for immediate care.
There are different kinds of cysts that can develop on the ovaries. The most common type is called a functional cyst. Ovaries naturally grow fluid-filled sacs called follicles, which release the egg each month and are also responsible for producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone; however, if the follicle keeps growing it will turn into a functional cyst. Most functional cysts are nothing to worry about and often go away within a few months.
There are other types of ovarian cysts that can develop and that aren’t influenced or brought about by menstruation. These cysts include:
- Dermoid cysts
It is possible for dermoid cysts and cystadenomas to become large enough to cause the ovary to shift or even twist. If the ovary twists this is called ovarian torsion. This condition often causes severe and sudden abdominal pain on one side and it requires immediate medical attention.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent ovarian cysts from happening; however, if you do experience ovarian cysts, coming in for a routine gynecology checkup can help pinpoint this issue early on. If you notice any changes in your health or experience new or worsening symptoms it’s important to call your OBGYN.
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.