The symptoms of menopause range from being slightly uncomfortable to being nearly unbearable. Since you’re an individual, you experience menopause uniquely, and your symptoms may be more or less intense than someone else’s.
The most common symptoms of menopause include:
- Erratic or less frequent menstruation
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
- Problems concentrating or remembering
- Dry skin
- Less sex drive
- Bone loss
There are three stages associated with menopause:
- Perimenopause - the time between when you first begin to experience symptoms and one year after your last menstrual period
- Menopause - one year after your last menstrual period
- Postmenopause - the rest of your life after menopause
Menopause occurs as your body produces less estrogen and progesterone, both of which are hormones associated with reproduction. The symptoms you experience are a result of those lower hormone levels.
In addition to symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness that are uncomfortable, lower hormone levels can cause bone loss, which leads to osteoporosis.
Hormone replacement therapy
One of the most common and effective methods of treating the symptoms associated with menopause is hormone replacement therapy. It is particularly helpful in alleviating night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and in preventing osteoporosis.
There are two ways to take hormone replacement therapy. You can take a product that is systemic—that is, it circulates through your bloodstream. Systemic products may be taken orally, through a patch, emulsion, injection, gel, or spray.
A local product affects only a specific part of your body. These products are available as a cream, a ring, or a tablet and are usually used to ease vaginal symptoms.
There are also two different types of hormone replacement therapies: estrogen-only and estrogen plus progesterone, which is sometimes called combination therapy. The type that is right for you depends on several factors, including your medical history.
Weighing the risks and benefits
There are some risks associated with the long-term use of hormone replacement therapy. In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative, a clinical trial, uncovered some risks associated with the long-term use of hormone replacement therapy. For example, there is some risk of breast cancer with the use of estrogen plus progesterone, and both types of hormone replacement therapy are associated with an increased risk of stroke when they are used long-term.
As a result, Dr. Pourzand and other clinicians now work to limit the risks by choosing the lowest effective dose and prescribing it for the shortest time possible. Many factors influence your personal risk profile, such as your age and whether or not you’ve had a hysterectomy.
Personalized care is key
When it comes to your health, having a healthcare provider who is a partner in helping you achieve and maintain optimal health is critical. Dr. Pourzand considers your goals, history, circumstances, as well as your medical needs when making treatment suggestions.
Hormone replacement therapy can be an important part of treating your menopausal symptoms. Book your appointment online or by phone to discuss your symptoms and options.