Menopause marks the end of a woman’s fertility. You officially reach that milestone when you haven’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months.
Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause that has all the nasty symptoms. Those symptoms generally start between ages 45-55 and last about four years. The exact timing is different for each person.
It’s during perimenopause, too, that reproductive hormone levels, including estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), testosterone, and luteinizing hormone (LH), start to fluctuate.
At the same time, women lose active ovarian follicles, the structures responsible for producing and releasing eggs from the ovary walls. Periods become intermittent and blood flow irregular.
Dr. Hany H Ahmed is a board-certified OB/GYN based in Houston, Texas. Both he and his staff understand that perimenopause and menopause can be rocky times in a woman’s life, and they’re dedicated to providing effective symptom relief to help you get through the changes.
Do you have these symptoms of menopause?
The symptoms you get are as individualized as you are, but the earliest signs generally include:
- Fewer menstrual periods
- Lighter or heavier flow than normal
- Hot flashes, flushing, and night sweats
Some 75% of perimenopausal women experience hot flashes, the symptom most people associate with this time of life.
Additional common symptoms include:
- Anxiety, depression, and mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Urinary incontinence or increased urination
- Dry skin, eyes, and mouth
- Vaginal dryness
- Tender breasts
- Mental “fog”
- Metabolism changes, especially leading to weight gain
- Increased risk of osteoporosis (low bone density)
- Stiff or painful joints
- Hair thinning or loss
Menopausal symptoms can be handled in a number of ways.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
As estrogen levels decrease, symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, and an increased risk of osteoporosis develop. HRT is an FDA-approved treatment for these symptoms. It’s available in two types:
This type of HRT is prescribed for women who don’t have a uterus due to a hysterectomy. It provides the most menopausal symptom relief.
Estrogen plus progestogen
Progestogen is added to protect against uterine (endometrial) cancer that can result from estrogen alone.
HRT can also be administered in two forms:
This method circulates through the bloodstream to all parts of the body and is used for night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal symptoms, and osteoporosis.
Local (nonsystemic) products
This method affects only a localized area of the body and is used to treat vaginal symptoms only, such as dryness and laxity.
Systemic HRT carries certain risks, including associations with breast cancer, stroke, and an increase in venous blood clots, especially for women over 60. Doctors therefore prescribe the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time to achieve symptom relief.
Medications such as low-dose antidepressants or anti-seizure medications can work off-label to help with hot flashes. Antidepressants can also address mood changes, especially when combined with some form of psychotherapy.
Doctors also use bone-building medications, such as the bisphosphonates, to build bone density and combat the risk of osteoporosis.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to ease your menopausal symptoms is to adapt your lifestyle to accommodate the changes.
For night sweats, wearing light pajamas, using layered bedding, keeping an electric fan by the bed, and keeping a frozen cold pack under your pillow can all help relieve symptoms.
For urinary incontinence, avoiding food and drinks with high acid and/or caffeine content, which can irritate the bladder lining, and practicing Kegel exercises, to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, can be effective remedies.
If you’re going through menopause with its many annoying or difficult symptoms and are looking for relief, contact Dr. Ahmed to schedule a consultation. Call our office at 713-489-3348 or book online with us today.