Menopause marks the period in a woman’s life where she can no longer bear children. Medically, you reach that point when you haven’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months.
Most women dread the symptoms that come along with menopause, but they’re acually a product of perimenopause, the period that leads up to menopause. Symptoms generally begin between ages 45-55 and last about four years, but your exact timing can vary.
The symptoms result from fluctuations in reproductive hormone levels, including estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), testosterone, and luteinizing hormone (LH).
That leads to the loss of active ovarian follicles, which produce and release eggs each month from the ovary walls. As a result, periods become intermittent and blood flow irregular.
Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed and his staff understand that perimenopause and menopause can be challenging times in a woman’s life, and they’re dedicated to providing effective symptom relief for their patients in Houston, Texas.
Are menopause symptoms inevitable? Maybe, but you don’t need to suffer through them. The team is here to help you get through the changes relatively unscathed.
Which symptoms you get while going through perimenopause are as individualized as you are; however, the earliest signs usually include:
- Less frequent menstrual periods
- Change in flow volume (heavier or lighter)
- Hot flashes, flushing, and night sweats
The symptom most people associate with menopause is hot flashes, and some 75% of perimenopausal women experience them.
Other common symptoms include:
- Mood swings, anxiety, and/or depression
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry skin, mouth, and eyes
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary incontinence or increased urination
- Tender breasts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in metabolism, especially weight gain
- Increased risk of osteoporosis (low bone density)
- Painful or stiff joints
- Hair thinning or loss
While the risk for these symptoms may be inevitable, Dr. Ahmed and his team have treatments to help reduce or eliminate the ones that develop.
Treating menopause symptoms
Treatments come in two types, medical and lifestyle.
One of the treatments Dr. Ahmed provides is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). As your estrogen levels decrease, you can expect the symptoms we discussed above.
HRT is FDA-approved to treat these symptoms and is available in two types: estrogen-only, used for women who lack a uterus due to a hysterectomy, and estrogen plus progestin, used to protect against endometrial (uterine) cancer that may develop with estrogen alone.
Estrogen in both forms helps protect against osteoporosis.
HRT can be used in two ways:
This method uses hormones that circulate through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. It can be effective for night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal symptoms, and osteoporosis.
Local (nonsystemic) products
This method uses topical hormones that only affect a localized area of the body. It’s used to treat vaginal symptoms only, such as dryness and laxity.
Systemic HRT has been shown to have an association with breast cancer, stroke, and increased blood clots in the veins, especially for women over 60. Dr. Ahmed therefore prescribes the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time to give you symptom relief.
Other medical treatments include using either low-dose antidepressants or anti-seizure medications off-label to help with hot flashes and mood changes, and bone-building medications to increase bone density.
Often, making changes to your routine improves menopause symptoms.
For night sweats, consider:
- Wearing light pajamas
- Using layered bedding
- Keeping an electric fan by the bed
- Keeping a cold pack under your pillow
For urinary incontinence, try:
- Avoiding foods and drinks high in acid or with caffeine
- Practicing Kegel exercises to strengthen and support pelvic floor muscles
You may also want to use lubrication during sex to combat vaginal dryness and any discomfort that may cause.
Menopause symptoms may be an inevitable part of a woman’s life, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through them. Dr. Ahmed has treatments to give you relief. Call our office at 713-489-3348, or book online with us today.