Menopause is a time in a woman's life when her period stops. This happens because the woman's ovary stops producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Normally, menopause occurs between ages 45-55. During the years preceding and during this change, a woman will experience a range of symptoms that for some are quite miserable. These include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- Trouble sleeping (from night sweats)
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings (from lack of sleep)
- Trouble focusing
- Weight gain
Since menopause is not a disease, there is no cure. Fortunately, there is help for the symptoms. Today, there are many different medications and treatment options available. As we age, we are more susceptible to heart disease and bone loss. By eating right and exercising, a woman can remain healthy for many years.
Every woman deserves individualized care and attention. The decision to use hormone replacement or to try an alternative treatment or to do nothing but wait out the symptoms is entirely up to her. It is important to learn what risks and benefits each of these options are.
Hormone therapy is the drug of choice for many of the symptoms of menopause. They help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures as well as colon cancer risk. The findings of an intensive study of women and hormones has helped practitioners better advise women on their options.
Managing hot flashes can be challenging. Making some lifestyle changes can help. Dressing in layers, drinking ice water, using a fan or opening a window to keep things cool will help. Knowing what triggers them and then avoiding those things like alcohol, hot, spicy foods and caffeine or certain activities helps too. If you smoke, stop. Keep physically busy. Exercise is important. Not only will it help prevent weight gain, it is good for the heart and helps improve sleep patterns, too.
Don't forget to exercise your mind! Declining estrogen may cause some memory loss or foggy thinking. Challenge you brain with crossword puzzles and other mental activities. Learn something new. Keep fit, relax and rest well. Stress is our own worst enemy.
Menopause and the drop in estrogen levels can make sex less enjoyable too. The vaginal wall lining thins and tears easily making it painful to have sex. Infections are more common including those of the urinary tract. Using vaginal lubricants or topical estrogen will help. Just having sex is a treatment also! It keeps blood flowing to that area of the body which in turn keeps the tissue healthy.
The most troubling symptom for most women is irregular bleeding. Besides the change in hormone levels, there are many other reasons for these changes. Fibroid tumors, cervical or uterine polyps, ovarian cysts or cancer are the most common reasons. Women should continue to have annual pelvic exams throughout the menopausal years and beyond.
The information on the Habersham OB/GYN web pages is provided for educational purposes only. You should consult a qualified health care provider if you have a question about your particular medical condition.
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