Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Menopause: It’s time to turn on the air conditioning during your personal summer
By Virginia N. Winston, MD Obstetrics & Gynecology Trinity OB/GYN
Hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings, sleep difficulties. While all these symptoms may sound like a bad dream, they are actually all very common symptoms that women experience during the menopausal transition. And while women of ages past believed they should “suffer in silence,” that is no longer an acceptable way to live for the more than 55 million women who are peri-menopausal or post-menopausal in the United States today.
Menopause is defined by the absence of menstruation for one year. For 4-7 years surrounding menopause, women experience what is called the menopausal transition. During this transitional period, many of the following symptoms can be experienced:
• Hot flashes and night sweats
• Sleep disturbance
• Depression, irritability, mood swings
• Loss of concentration and memory
• Changes in length between periods and changes in bleeding amount during periods
• Vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and painful intercourse
• Heart palpitations
• Joint aches
Hot flashes and night sweats are the most common complaints of peri-menopausal women. During these episodes extreme heat is felt in the upper body (face, neck, and chest). These symptoms are caused by changes in thermoregulation in the brain and by decreased estrogen levels and increased levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). At the present time, there are multiple hormonal and non-hormonal treatments for these symptoms. Consultation with a trained gynecologist or women’s healthcare specialist could lead to drastic reduction in these symptoms and also improve sleep quality and mood which can be affected by these vasomotor symptoms.
A common unspoken complaint of peri-menopausal women is the constellation of vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, and decreased libido. These can alter quality of life and relationships severely and are often not communicated to practitioners because of embarrassment. Women are strongly encouraged to voice these complaints as treatments are available. Both hormonal and non-hormonal options can be considered and provide drastic relief.
Women should feel empowered that effective treatments are available for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Many times it is as easy as simply speaking up and voicing complaints to your doctor who can, in-turn, provide valuable education and safe options for treatment.
References: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin Number 141: Management of Menopausal Symptoms; January 2014.
Hoffman BL, Schorge JO, SchafferJI, Halvorson LM, Bradshaw KD, Cunningham FG: Williams Gynecology, 2cd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill companies Inc; 2012