Menopause is a transitional stage in a woman’s life that is part of the natural aging process, and means that you no longer get menstrual periods or can get pregnant. This change can cause anxiety and feelings of uncertainty. However, when you know what to expect with the physical changes associated with menopause, it becomes easier to manage this transition.
Here are some things you need to know about menopausal symptoms.
Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. While many women experience only mild symptoms, others find hot flashes unbearable. Many women wear loose, breathable clothing, stay hydrated, keep their bedroom temperatures cool at night, and stay perfectly comfortable. Other women may require more aggressive treatment.
If your hot flashes and night sweats severely affect your day or your ability to enjoy a restful night’s sleep, your physician may prescribe a short-term course of hormonal replacement therapy, or HRT. Not only does HRT help reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes, it also helps improve other symptoms of menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy increases your estrogen levels, which decline during menopause. It is declining estrogen levels that cause most menopause symptoms. While this treatment can effectively relieve hot flashes and night sweats, estrogen therapy may raise your risk for certain gynecological cancers, including breast cancer.
If you have a strong family history of gynecological cancers, or if you have already had one of these cancers, HRT may be inappropriate for you. Your healthcare provider may then recommend antidepressant medications, which can also relieve your symptoms without the heightened risk for estrogen-fueled cancers.
Vaginal and Urinary Tract Atrophy
Vaginal and urinary tract atrophy is commonly caused by menopausal estrogen decline, and causes atrophic changes, or muscle wasting, of the vagina and urinary tract. Low estrogen levels weaken the bladder and urethra, which in turn impairs urinary control functions.
Also known as atrophic vaginitis, vaginal atrophy causes decreased elasticity of the vaginal walls, which predisposes your vagina to fragility, tears, and vaginal irritation. While menopause is one of the most common causes of vaginal and urinary tract atrophy, other causes, such as ovary removal, breastfeeding, certain medications, and radiation therapy, may also raise the risk.
Declining estrogen levels also alter the pH level of the vagina and vulva, which can raise your risk for infections and irritation.
Pelvic organ prolapse caused by declining estrogen levels can also cause menopause-related urinary symptoms. Also a potential result of vaginal births, pelvic organ prolapse refers to when one or more of the pelvic organs slips from its usual position into the vaginal canal, which can lead to urinary and other problems
Here are some common symptoms linked to vaginal and urinary tract atrophy.
- Involuntary urine leakage
- Sudden urge to urinate
- Urinary frequency
- Frequent urination at night
- Vaginal dryness and itching
- Vaginal bleeding
- Painful intercourse
Additionally, if you experience urinary burning, cloudy urine, blood in your urine, bladder or flank pain, or highly-concentrated urine, you may have a urinary tract infection related to urinary tract or vaginal atrophy. While antibiotics may help relieve your symptoms, urinary tract infections may return if your atrophy is not treated.
Unlike hot flashes and night sweats, which typically improve over time, symptoms of vaginal and urinary tract atrophy often worsen with advancing age. Treatment options for menopause-related urogenital problems include:
- Avoidance of harsh hygiene sprays and soaps
- Strength exercises
- Surgical intervention
Your gynecologist will decide which treatment option is best for you depending on the severity of your symptoms.
To learn more about the above menopausal symptoms and treatments, or to make an appointment, contact us today.