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Monday, January 10, 2011 - Menopause

Menopause is a part of the aging process that every woman must experience, and it can often come along with some uncomfortable symptoms.  Here to discuss what can occur during menopause and some of the treatment options available is Dr. Gisele McKinney, an OB/GYN on staff at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women.

Q.     What is menopause?

  1. Menopause is an important step in the natural aging process for women.  Most begin to experience signs of menopause in their forties, and it basically signals the end of a woman’s menstruation cycle. 

Q.     What causes menopause?

  1. The cause of menopause is essentially when a woman begins to run out of eggs in the ovaries.  The eggs are gradually lost over the woman’s lifetime.  At the time of a woman’s first period, she typically has about 400,000 eggs, and once menopause takes place, there are usually only about 10,000 eggs remaining. From the beginning of the menstrual cycle, a woman also produces a hormone called FSH (or follicle-stimulating hormone) that helps to assist egg growth and promote fertility, but as a woman enters menopause, her eggs become more resistant to this hormone and her body also begins to produce less estrogen and testosterone, other hormones which can promote fertility.

Q.     What are some of the symptoms?

  1. Because of the loss of estrogen and the changes that causes in the body, many women experience some uncomfortable symptoms that can include hot flashes, night sweats, itchy skin, problems with sleep, vaginal dryness, a loss of sex drive, increased urination, irritability and anxiety.  Some women, however, experience very few or none of these symptoms during menopause.

Q.     Is there anything that can help to treat these symptoms during menopause?

  1. Of course.  Many women can get some relief by simply taking good care of themselves and following a healthy diet and exercise routine. There are also different treatments including hormone replacement therapy, which is not necessarily for every woman and has certain pros and cons.

Q.     What is hormone replacement therapy?

  1. Hormone replacement therapy is when a woman is prescribed estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone in order to relieve some of the symptoms of menopause and also to help prevent osteoporosis. However, newer studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy can lead to an overgrowth of cells which can lead to cancer, and there is also a higher risk of heart disease associated, so women who are on hormone replacement therapy are typically given a very low dose of hormones and remain on them for the shortest time possible and should be re-evaluated each year to ensure that the need to continue hormone replacement is still present, and that the patient is in good health.

Q.     Are there certain women who shouldn’t have hormone replacement therapy?

  1. Yes.  Women shouldn’t use hormone replacement therapy if they have or have had endometrial cancer or breast cancer, blood clots, abnormal vaginal bleeding, liver disease or a history of stroke.  They should also not use hormone replacement if they might be pregnant.  Women also shouldn’t smoke while on hormone replacement therapy, as it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you are having menopause symptoms and are interested in hormone replacement therapy, you should discuss it with your physician to determine if it’s right for you, and if not, some alternatives that would be more beneficial for you.  For instance, there are other medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, that have shown to prevent hot flashes. There are also many herbal treatments that many people are beginning to use as alternatives to hormone replacement, but before you start using any of these treatments or supplements, you should discuss it with your physician. 

            For those of you who want more information about menopause and treatment options, call Dr. McKinney at 337-480-5510.

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