Menopause is a natural process and not a disease state. It is defined by decreased hormone production from the ovaries. This can be surgical by removal of the ovaries, or natural around the age 45-55. The decrease in hormone production is gradual and usually begins several years prior to menopause, during a time we call peri-menopause. Perimenopausal symptoms are usually mood changes, fatigue, weight gain around the midbody, hot flushes, decreased libido, decrease muscle and skin tone, vaginal dryness and hair thinning or loss. These symptoms may accompany irregular vaginal bleeding or can occur in women with regular cycles. Not all these symptoms appear in all women and at the same time. A very unlucky few will suffer from all and most end up with a few of the symptoms that sometimes are very disruptive.
The decrease in hormone production also affects the internal organs as well. During this time of hormonal change the body suffers from decreased bone mass, risk of heart attacks increases by 10 times and some women report decreased mental acuity and sharpness.
As menopause approaches, these symptoms can progressively worsen. Other physical symptoms of menopause include, lack of energy, joint soreness, stiffness, back pain, breast enlargement, breast pain, heart palpitations, headache, dizziness, dry, itchy skin, thinning, tingling skin, urinary incontinence, urinary urgency, interrupted sleeping patterns and heavy night sweats.
During pre and post menopause, it is most important for all women to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly to preserve heart and bone health. Exercise and a healthy diet have shown to decrease the symptoms of menopause as well.
A whole host of supplements are available in the market that are not very effective but some are helpful in blunting some of the symptoms of menopause. Black cohosh, St. John’s wart and red clover in some studies have shown to help women with mood changes and hot flushes.
Natural hormone therapy, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, is helpful in most women to preserve the health of the body and restore function by supplementing the body’s own hormone production.
Vaginal estrogen can be used locally in women with vaginal dryness. Lubricants available over the counter help with ease of intercourse, however, do not restore the natural thickness of the tissue and normal discharge. Lack of estrogen over time leads to atrophy of the sexual organs and cause burning and irritation with stimulation. Vaginal estrogen helps in restoring the health of the vaginal tissue, increased blood flow and natural lubrication of the sexual organs as well as the responsiveness of the genitalia to stimulation.
Systemic use of natural hormones helps improve symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes and other hormone-related symptoms as well as improve bone and heart health. Studies show increased benefit and decreased risk in early systemic hormone use starting during perimenopause and early menopause.
Dr. Tahery has devoted more than twenty years treating women with perimenopause and menopause and can help you regain control and live a healthy and active life.