Although the average age of menopausal onset for women in the U.S. is 51, some women go through menopause at a younger age. Whether premature (early) menopause occurs because of a hysterectomy (including surgery that doesn't remove the ovaries), an autoimmune illness, a genetic predisposition, or a cancer treatment, once diagnosed, doctors usually offer menopause treatment.
A blood test that measures your estradiol levels may tell your doctor that you are in menopause. Low levels of estradiol–a form of estrogen produced by the ovaries–can be a sign that your ovaries are beginning to fail.
Your doctor may also order a blood test that measures follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)–a hormone produced in the pituitary gland that controls the function of the ovaries. Levels of FSH increase when your ovaries slow their production of estrogen; therefore, rising levels of FSH can indicate the onset of menopause. Doctors often use the presence of high levels of FSH and low levels of estrogen to diagnose menopause.
Health Risks Associated With Menopause–Premature or Natural
Menopause isn't only about irregular or missed periods, mood swings, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleeplessness. Lowered estrogen levels that occur with menopause put you at higher risk for:
Osteoporosis. Low estrogen is a common cause of osteoporosis in women, particularly after menopause.
During menopause, getting regular physical activity, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels, and consuming the recommended 1,200 mg of calcium every day can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Colon cancer. Research suggests that the female hormone estrogen may help protect against colorectal cancer in premenopausal women. Some studies also suggest that hormone replacement therapy may reduce the risk of colon cancer in postmenopausal women.
Regular colorectal screening is important since it can find the cancer early. Menopause replacement therapy (MHT) is another option for reducing your risk of developing colorectal cancer but may increase your risk of heart disease, blood clots, breast cancer, uterine cancer, and lung cancer.
Periodontal (gum) disease. Estrogen deficiency that occurs after menopause can lead to bone loss, which can cause osteoporosis and periodontal disease. Loss of bone density can occur in the bones that hold teeth in place, leading to periodontitis.
Eating a healthy diet, scheduling regular dental checkups, informing your dentist of any changes you notice in your mouth, and practicing good oral hygiene help keep your gums and teeth healthy following the onset of menopause.
Treatment of Common Symptoms
Water-based vaginal lubricants are available over the counter to treat vaginal dryness and discomfort. If over-the-counter medications don't provide relief, your doctor can prescribe estrogen creams, tablets, or rings to treat severe vaginal dryness, itching, burning, and painful urination.
Medications that doctors normally prescribe to treat high blood pressure (clonidine), epilepsy (gabapentin), and depression (SSRI antidepressants) can help treat the symptoms of moodiness and hot flashes often associated with menopause.
If you are going through perimenopause and still have menstrual cycles, low-dose oral contraceptives can reduce the frequency of hot flashes and help with heavy or irregular periods. Perimenopause describes the years leading up to menopause when your ovaries begin producing less estrogen. Menopause doesn't occur until your ovaries stop releasing eggs.
Although low-dose contraceptives are a treatment option, if you are at risk for certain types of cancers, are a heavy smoker, or have your own or a family history of blood clots, your doctor may advise against the use of low-dose contraceptives.
Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT)
Menopause hormone therapy is an option available to treat severe symptoms of menopause. Treatment comes with risks however; therefore, you and your doctor should discuss whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
While MHT can ease vaginal symptoms, slow bone loss, and reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, treatment can put you at increased risk of heart attack and stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, and gall bladder disease. If you choose MHT as a treatment option, your doctor may recommend it for only a short period.Share
13 January 2017
As soon as I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I knew that I needed to make a few changes to ensure that me and my baby stayed safe. For starters, I called around to find a great OBGYN, and I was able to book an appointment with an incredible clinic. They were really nice to work with, and before I knew it, I was having my first appointment. It was really fun to see the little heartbeat and to know that my baby was healthy and safe, which is why I was so happy that I found a great prenatal clinic. This blog is all about getting great prenatal care.