Thursday, March 14, 2013

Preparing for “The Change” - Options for Managing the Symptoms of Menopause

The onset of menopause, which signifies the end of a woman’s reproductive years, may be a sensitive topic for some. Many people are simply uncomfortable with aging, while others may have anxiety about unpleasant symptoms they heard about from friends or family. GBMC gynecologist Beth Aronson, MD, stresses that “menopause, like pregnancy, is a normal part of life. Some women experience very mild symptoms that don’t greatly impact them, while others aren’t as lucky. It can vary greatly from woman to woman.”

For women in the U.S., menopause typically occurs between 48 and 52 years of age. During this period of time, the ovaries stop releasing eggs, which causes a decrease in estrogen. In the years prior to menopause, or “perimenopause,” women’s ovaries begin to slow down, which may begin to cause menopausal symptoms. The most common symptoms women experience before and during menopause include:

• Hot flashes
• Absence of menstrual periods
• Vaginal dryness
• Mood changes

• Loss of libido

“While it’s normal to experience symptoms like these, women should visit their doctor if they notice any irregular bleeding patterns or very heavy or prolonged bleeding, as these could be signs of more serious problems,” Dr. Aronson says. “Additionally, if symptoms like hot flashes are causing a tremendous amount of insomnia that is affecting day-to-day activities, it is a good idea to talk to your physician.”

Dr. Beth Aronson
Dr. Aronson encourages women experiencing severe menopause symptoms that greatly affect their quality of life to discuss treatment options with their physicians. “The most popular solution is hormone replacement therapy, which involves taking estrogen supplements with or without progesterone,” she says. “However, this method isn’t for everyone, so you and your physician should discuss whether you are a good candidate for hormone replacement therapy or if your symptoms warrant such treatment.”

Over-the-counter products can also make women going through menopause feel more comfortable. “Non-hormonal vaginal lubricants and herbal supplements like black cohosh and evening primrose oil are safe and can be effective in relieving symptoms,” Dr. Aronson says. “The good news is that once the acute process of becoming menopausal has passed, these symptoms are usually more tolerable and subside.”

It is also important to note that certain health risks increase after menopause due to low levels of estrogen. Conditions that are more likely to occur after menopause include osteoporosis, heart disease, decreased bladder and bowel function and vision changes. “To prevent or control worsening of such conditions, women should continue having regular medical and vision check-ups,” she cautions. “Although the symptoms of menopause can be unpleasant, women can take some comfort in the fact that, through regular visits with their physicians, help is available.

1 comment:

  1. Do women in other countries make such a production over menopause, or is it just ours? So I get a hot flash or two. Big deal. And no more periods? Yippee! :)