Menopause marks the end of a woman’s ability to give birth. When you haven’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months, you’re medically considered to be in menopause.
The dreaded symptoms that come with this phase of life are actually a product of perimenopause, the period leading up to menopause. Symptoms generally begin between ages 45-55 and last about four years. However, each woman’s timing varies.
Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed and his staff understand that perimenopause can be a challenging time in a woman’s life, and they’re committed to providing effective symptom relief for their patients in Houston, Texas.
Perimenopausal symptoms result from fluctuations in reproductive hormone levels. These hormones include estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), testosterone, and luteinizing hormone (LH).
The drop in levels leads to the loss of active follicles in the ovaries, which create and release eggs each month. Periods, therefore, become intermittent and blood flow irregular.
The symptom most people associate with the perimenopausal years is hot flashes, and some 75% of women experience them.
Other common symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry skin, mouth, and eyes
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary incontinence or increased urination
- Tender breasts
- Trouble concentrating
- Weight gain from changes in metabolism
- Increased risk of osteoporosis (low bone density)
- Painful or stiff joints
- Hair thinning or loss
You may get just one or two symptoms or some combination of them.
What is hormone replacement therapy?
One of the treatments Dr. Ahmed provides is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is FDA-approved to treat perimenopausal symptoms and comes in two types:
- Estrogen only, for women who lack a uterus
- Estrogen plus progestin, to prevent uterine cancer that may develop with estrogen alone
Both forms protect against osteoporosis.
The hormones used in systemic HRT circulate through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. They’re effective for common symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes.
Systemic HRT, though, has been associated with breast cancer, stroke, and increased blood clots in the veins, especially for women over 60. As a result, Dr. Ahmed prescribes the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time to help with your symptoms.
What is vaginal estrogen?
Vaginal estrogen is a topical application. Instead of circulating throughout your body, the hormones only affect the vaginal tissues, treating symptoms such as dryness and laxity.
While vaginal estrogen can’t address other perimenopausal symptoms, it can provide the lubrication necessary to have pleasurable sex without the risks associated with systemic hormone replacement.
Going through perimenopause and bothered by the symptoms that come with it? Dr. Ahmed can help. To learn more about vaginal estrogen and HRT, call our office to schedule a consultation or book online.