No Need to Suffer Through Menopause

Menopause Management

Comedians joke about it and internet memes make light of it, but for many women, menopause is no laughing matter. Pre-menopause symptoms can start as early as five years before menopause. Menopause—and its side effects--can last four to five years before it is considered complete—defined as a full year without a period. And for some women, menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain, irregular moods and more can linger for years after.

There are many different menopause symptoms, and they can range from annoying debilitating. The good news is that women don’t have to suffer these symptoms in silence. At Penn Highlands Healthcare, our gynecologists and other women’s health specialists can work with you to find effective therapies and treatments so that you can get on with your life.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Menopause?

Every woman’s journey through menopause is unique—from how old she is when it starts to what symptoms she experiences and how severe they are. What is common is that estrogen levels are steadily dropping, which is the cause behind most of the common symptoms. Most women deal with some or all of the following symptoms lasting from just a few months to many years:

  • Bone density loss/osteoporosis
  • Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness
  • Hair loss
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Incontinence and/or urinary frequency
  • Irregular periods/bleeding:
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia
  • Vaginal dryness, which can cause painful intercourse
  • Weight gain

Are There Any Treatments to Relieve Symptoms of Menopause?

If your menopause symptoms are disrupting your life, your doctor many recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which replaces some of the estrogen your body is no longer making. Although HRT got a bad rap years ago for raising stroke and breast cancer risk, today’s much lower doses make it a safe option for most women to take for a limited time early in menopause. HRT also can help prevent bone loss. HRT comes in many forms including pill, patch, and gel. Talk with your doctor about whether it is a good choice for you.

Some other medications are often prescribed to treat specific symptoms, including low-dose antidepressants and gabapentin. You also may have read about natural remedies for menopause symptoms, such as black cohosh for hot flashes. Increased exercise, including muscle-building exercises, and dietary changes, such as eliminating spicy foods or alcohol, can help control some symptoms.

The key thing to know is that you don’t need to suffer through menopause. In fact, you shouldn’t. Your doctor can recommend specific lifestyle changes, prescribe medications and also check to ensure that any natural supplements aren’t interfering with your normal prescriptions or causing undesired side effects.

For women dealing with urinary leakage, or incontinence, pelvic floor therapy, a type of physical therapy available at Penn Highlands, medication, and surgery all may be options.