For women in the Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, and South Carolina area who are in the throes of menopause and seeking relief from menopausal symptoms, at Menopause Solutions we offer safe and effective treatments.
Menopause refers to the time in a woman’s life when her reproductive years are coming to an end. The menopause transition is a natural and normal phase of life. Because women are living longer than they were in the past, a woman may spend a third of her life in menopause. The menopause transition is marked by the end of menstrual periods, and historically menopause was diagnosed when a woman had gone one full year without a period. In reality, menopause can begin before the periods have been absent for a year and is easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. This blood test is also useful for women who don’t have periods due to the presence of a certain type of IUD (intrauterine device), or who have undergone an endometrial ablation (procedure to stop the periods) or hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).
The hallmark of the menopause transition is the change in hormones. The decline in hormone production by the ovaries is marked by a variety of symptoms, some of which can have a significant and negative impact on a woman’s quality of life. The most common of these symptoms are hot flashes and night sweats, referred to vasomotor symptoms. Eighty percent of menopausal women will experience vasomotor symptoms in menopause. During a hot flash, a woman experiences an intense feeling of heat, which is perceived as radiating from within her, accompanied by flushing, redness of the face, neck, and chest, and often followed by actual sweating. The episode can last anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes after which the woman may feel chilled. When these episodes occur at nighttime and during sleep, we refer to the symptoms as night sweats.
In addition to the uncomfortable nature of hot flashes and night sweats, the episodes can be embarrassing (for example during public speaking or an important meeting), and quite disruptive for sleep. Frequent awakening due to night sweats can lead to daytime sleepiness and fatigue, foggy thinking due to lack of sleep, and irritability. Hot flashes and night sweats are easily managed with hormone replacement therapy as well as non-hormonal treatments. Vasomotor symptoms are a hallmark of menopause and occur to some extent in the majority of women but are not lifelong. Menopausal hot flashes and night sweats typically last 3 to 7 years early in menopause and then resolve. Treatment of vasomotor symptoms is indicated during this 3-to-7-year window when the symptoms are adversely affecting the quality of life. Many safe and effective treatments are available, either with hormone therapy or non-hormonal options. An experience menopause specialist can educate her patient on the many effective treatment options.
Another common symptom of menopause is insomnia. As a woman transitions into menopause, she may find she is having more difficulty with sleep. Menopausal insomnia may involve trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or both. Sixty percent of menopausal women will experience sleep disruption during this phase of life. Sleep disruption and lack of quality sleep can result in daytime somnolence, irritability, and poor work performance.
Menopausal women who are experiencing insomnia and sleep issues should contact their medical provider when the symptoms are negatively impacting their quality of life and daytime functioning. Insomnia can be effectively treated with a variety of regimens, ranging from lifestyle modification, to over-the-counter remedies, to prescription sleep aids, and hormone replacement therapy.
A third very bothersome symptom of menopause is weight gain. Most women will gain 5 to 10% of their pre-menopausal body weight, translating to anywhere from 5 to 20 pounds. Weight gain results from declining hormone levels and the resulting changes in metabolism. These changes particularly affect carbohydrate metabolism, resulting in disproportionate weight distribution in the midsection, or simply put, more belly fat. Studies show that while the majority of women gain weight in menopause, women who use hormone therapy in early menopause tend to gain less weight than women who do not.
Weight gain in menopause is not a lost cause! The extra pounds, and weight around the middle, can be effectively managed with both dietary and lifestyle changes. Women transitioning into menopause frequently report, “I’m gaining weight and I haven’t changed a thing!” The fact is that with the inevitable changes in declining hormone levels and metabolism, menopausal women need to initiate dietary and lifestyle changes (compared to their pre-menopausal selves) to avoid the excess weight and belly fat. An experienced menopause provider will work with her patient to find the best strategy and program to manage her individual goals.
These menopausal issues of vasomotor flushing, insomnia and menopausal weight gain are but three of the many, very common symptoms of menopause. Other issues that are frequently experienced include mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive, foggy thinking, thinning hair, and thin, crepe-y skin. Any one of these symptoms can be extremely bothersome but taken together can become quite unmanageable and can negatively impact the quality of life of the menopausal woman, as well as the quality of life for those closest to her. Whether or not to seek treatment depends upon the degree to which the symptoms negatively impact the quality of life. It is important that she discuss her unique issues with a menopause provider experienced in the management of menopausal symptoms. It is equally important that her provider equip her with options of not only hormone therapy, but also lifestyle changes and non-hormonal options. There is no “one size fits all” approach to the management of menopause, and treatment must be individualized to the woman’s symptoms, goals, and personal medical and family history with adequate time and attention to her specific needs.
At Menopause Solutions, we provide exceptional care to women in the Mt. Pleasant, Charleston and surrounding areas who are experiencing menopause and menopausal issues. We provide the time and attention needed for an individualized approach, because just as no two women are alike, the treatment of menopause will be different for each patient. Dr. Eustis and Dr. Leach are both board-certified menopause specialists and able to meet the needs and exceed the expectations for the treatment of menopause for women in the Charleston, South Carolina area.