Menopause is a natural biological process, and although it ends fertility, women can stay healthy, vital, and sexual. Even so, the physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or – for some women – trigger anxiety or feelings of sadness and loss.
Symptoms of menopause may include:
- Absence of period for 12 months
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats, difficulty sleeping
- Cognitive changes (difficulty remembering names, directions, losing focus/train of thought)
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal/vulvar itching
- Generalized itching
- Bone loss (osteoporosis)
- Urinary incontinence
Once your period has officially stopped, the estrogen levels in your body will gradually decline. Additionally, you’ll no longer produce another female hormone called progesterone. Such hormonal changes may intensify the hot flashes, mood swings, or other symptoms you may have been experiencing during perimenopause, or they may trigger symptoms you have yet to experience.
Another physical sign of menopause is bone loss (approximately 20 percent of bone mass can be lost in the first five years of menopause). And although hot flashes usually subside, sometimes they persist.
If you experience these symptoms, and they bother you, make an appointment with your provider to talk about treatment options that will help your specific symptoms.
- Hormone replacement therapy may help alleviate some symptoms
- Estrogen cream can be used for vaginal dryness
- Medications can be prescribed to treat hot flashes or osteoporosis
- Kegel exercises and pelvic floor physical therapy may help some types of urinary incontinence
A common question is whether hormone therapy is safe and whether it can cause cancer. Hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of estrogen-dependent cancer, but it may have some cardiovascular benefits. It’s important to see your provider so they can conduct a thorough history and help determine your risk and whether estrogen is safe for you. Your provider can also help you evaluate the various treatment options that are available for your specific menopause symptoms.
Do you have other questions about menopause or women’s health? On Tuesday, April 9, KUTV and Intermountain Healthcare will broadcast live from the new Intermountain Layton Hospital for Ask The Expert. Intermountain Healthcare caregivers will provide tips and suggestions on women’s health and managing menopause on KUTV channel 2 throughout the day. If you have questions, a panel of experts will answer your phone calls from noon to 5:30 p.m. at 801-543-6960. You can also submit questions via Facebook and Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert.