Anu Nutakki, MD, is an internal medicine physician on staff at Banner Gateway Medical Center.
Question: I think I am starting to have symptoms of menopause. What should I do about it?
Answer: Menopause. It’s a word that can make women cringe. All women know they will have to experience it, but many fear enduring, suffering or surviving it. The convenience of no longer having menstrual cycles is appealing. However, the possibility of developing hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood swings, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, thinning hair, weight gain and other symptoms makes menopause seem daunting.
As many as 75 percent of women experience menopausal symptoms. Most women suffer through them as their mothers and grandmothers did. Unfortunately, the “change” is still surrounded by a cloud of mystery and misinformation. Many women are surprised to find that seeking medical help may lead to an improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.
Talking with a health care provider is an important step in getting the correct information about menopause, what to expect, and how to deal with symptoms. Each woman experiences menopause differently. By communicating with a physician, questions and concerns can be addressed and a health care plan can be individualized to a woman’s needs.
For some women, pharmacological therapy with hormone replacement or other prescribed medications may be an option. Some women believe in the benefits herbals and supplements such as black cohosh, evening primrose oil, vitamin E, or diets high in soy, flaxseed or other phytoestrogens. However, most clinical trials have shown that these are not particularly effective in improving menopausal symptoms. Behavioral techniques and lifestyle changes may also be helpful for many women.
Menopause is a natural and important milestone in a woman’s life. By demystifying and understanding menopause as well as having options to manage symptoms, a woman can feel empowered rather than feeling a loss of control. If you have questions about menopause or are experiencing menopausal symptoms, make an appointment with your health care provider to learn more about menopause and possible treatment options.