What is menopause?
Menopause is a time of change in your life, marked by the end of menstrual periods. It means you can no longer have children. At menopause, the ovaries have no eggs left, and they stop making the hormone estrogen. The change that causes most signs of menopause is the lower level of estrogen.
This is a good time to stop harmful habits and develop a health lifestyle that will help you deal with the loss of estrogen you will be experiencing.
Lifestyle tips include:
- Stop smoking
- Eat a healthy diet
- Reach a healthy weight level
- Increase your exercise
- Control high blood pressure
- Control high cholesterol
What are the common signs of menopause?
When your periods become very irregular, you might guess you are starting menopause. After some time, your periods will come to an end. It is important to remember that periods can stop or become irregular for other reasons as well. You can't just assume that irregular periods are caused by menopause, even if you are 45-55 years old (when menopause happens to most women). See your doctor for a check up if you have any of any of the following problems:
- Periods that come closer together than every 21 days.
- Periods that last longer than 7 days.
- Periods that are very heavy.
- Bleeding between periods.
Another very common sign of menopause is the hot flash. When you have a hot flash, you blush (your skin turns pink), and you feel hot. You may have sweat on your face, on your scalp, and on the front of your chest. Hot flashes usually last a few minutes. They might happen a few times a day or many times a day. They are more common at night while you're sleeping and in hot, humid weather. Hot flashes that keep you from getting a good night's sleep may make you forgetful or irritable during the day. Vaginal dryness is also common during and after menopause. This dryness can cause pain during sexual intercourse. It might cause you to have vaginal infections. In some women, the the lining of the urethra also becomes thin, and this cause a burning feeling during urination. (The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.)
Can Menopause Be Treated?
Yes. You and your doctor should talk about what treatment is best for you. If you have irregular bleeding, you should ask your doctor to find out why. If the reason is menopause, the right treatment is different for each woman.
Some women don't take any medications. They wait until the signs of menopause go away. Some women take hormones (hormone replacement therapy), either estrogen alone or both estrogen and progesterone. If you have a uterus, it is important that you take progesterone along with estrogen. This combination helps you prevent cancer of the uterus. (Taken all by itself, estrogen may raise your risk of getting cancer of the uterus.)
Estrogen with progesterone helps control hot flashes. A medicine for high blood pressure, called Clonidine (brand name: Catapres) may also help. You can also try wearing light, layered clothing. Drinking ice water may cool you off when a hot flash strikes.
Hot flashes usually go on happening for a year or two and then go away. In a few woman, hot flashes last for many years.
If your vagina is dry, you can use a water based lubricant, such as KY jelly, when you have sexual intercourse. Vaginal moisturizing creams, like Replens, may also help reduce infection and irritation. Replens is sold at drug stores without a prescription. The best treatment is estrogen. Estrogen comes in vaginal creams, in pills, skin patches, and in a spray.
You can consult with us regarding hormone replacements in the form of creams, patches, gels and pills and in the near future testosterone and estrogen pellets.
What about The Risk of Breast Cancer if I Take Estrogen?
Some studies have suggested that estrogen increases a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. Other studies don't show such a risk. Heart disease kills far more woman than breast cancer. Estrogen treatment can save lives by cutting the risk of hip fractures and heart disease. For many woman, though, the fear of breast cancer is very strong. Is is important to consider your personal health history and your family's history. You should talk with your doctor before you decide about taking estrogen.