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What is the most common symptom of menopause?
Menopause is not a disease state. It’s important to realize that. It is a natural transition, so when we talk about treatments of supplements, it is for specific symptoms. The most common being hot flashes.
What can I do to prevent hot flashes?
Without question and without controversy, the most effective treatment for hot flashes is estrogen therapy. If you have a uterus, you also need to protect that uterus currently with the hormone called progesterone.
So women who have a uterus in place will be offered estrogen and progesterone therapy for treatment of hot flashes.
There’s at least a 30 percent placebo treatment rate of hot flashes, just by taking a placebo pill. So we know that education plays an important part in the treatment of hot flashes, especially if these hot flashes are mild or minimum, occurring once or twice a day. Many of these women may be able to be treated by education, by understanding hot flashes and layering clothing, avoiding caffeine and alcohol products and being in a cool temperature are all methods that a woman can use to self-treat these hot flashes.
Again, there is an effective therapy, but the majority of women with mild to minimal hot flashes won’t necessarily need hormone medications.
Are there other symptoms I should watch out for?
Other symptoms that women have in menopause sometimes require therapy, such as vaginal dryness, which, again, is usually very well treated with estrogen therapy. In addition, there could be sleep disturbances and urinary incontinence that could also be treated with estrogen therapy. But not everybody needs estrogen therapy.
What can I do to stay proactive if menopause has not yet begun?
Most women now, in the United States, are hopefully seeing their health care provider at least once a year to go over annual exams and Pap smears and breast cancer screening. At this annual exam is a very good time to start talking to your physician about what to expect as you are reaching your mid-40s, late 40s or even if you are having symptoms of hot flashes that you may feel are not that significant but are starting to be noticeable to you.
Certainly in between these yearly visits, if you start being affected in your activities of daily living like not being able to go to work well because you are not sleeping well, or you are having these hot flashes, or you have noticed in your personal relationship, you have a significant decrease in libido or vaginal dryness, these are all symptoms that are treatable and should signal you to be able to go in and see your physician to talk to them about what options you have for therapy.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's women's health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego OBGYN or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about women's health, visit Women's Health in Adult Health or read the Women's Health News archive.