Menopause

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideMenopause & Perimenopause: Symptoms, Signs

Menopause & Perimenopause: Symptoms, Signs

Vaginal lubricants for menopause symptoms

In women for whom oral or vaginal estrogens are deemed inappropriate, such as breast cancer survivors, or women who do not wish to take oral or vaginal estrogen, there are a variety of over-the-counter vaginal lubricants. However, they are probably not as effective in relieving vaginal symptoms as replacing the estrogen deficiency with oral or local estrogen.

Lifestyle factors in controlling the symptoms and complications of menopause

Many of the symptoms of menopause and the medical complications that may develop in postmenopausal women can be lessened or even avoided by taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise can help protect against cardiovascular disease as well as osteoporosis, and exercise also has known mental health benefits. Proper nutrition and smoking cessation will also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Which specialties of doctors treat menopausal symptoms?

The symptoms of menopause are often treated by a woman’s gynecologist. Primary care providers, including family medicine specialists and internists, may also treat the symptoms of menopause.

What are the complications and effects of menopause on chronic medical conditions?

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the deterioration of the quantity and quality of bone that causes an increased risk of fracture. The density of the bone (bone mineral density) normally begins to decrease in women during the fourth decade of life. However, that normal decline in bone density is accelerated during the menopausal transition. As a consequence, both age and the hormonal changes due to the menopause transition act together to cause osteoporosis.

The process leading to osteoporosis can operate silently for decades. Women may not be aware of their osteoporosis until suffering a painful fracture. The symptoms are then related to the location and severity of the fractures.

Treatment of osteoporosis

The goal of osteoporosis treatment is the prevention of bone fractures by slowing bone loss and increasing bone density and strength. Although early detection and timely treatment of osteoporosis can substantially decrease the risk of future fracture, none of the available treatments for osteoporosis are complete cures for the condition. Therefore, the prevention of osteoporosis is as important as treatment.

Osteoporosis treatment and prevention measures are:

Cardiovascular disease

Prior to menopause, women have a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke when compared with men. Around the time of menopause, however, a women's risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S.

Coronary heart disease rates in postmenopausal women are two to three times higher than in women of the same age who have not reached menopause. This increased risk for cardiovascular disease may be related to declining estrogen levels, but in light of other factors (see Treatment section below), postmenopausal women are not advised to take hormone therapy simply as a preventive measure to decrease their risk of heart attack or stroke.

Reviewed on 10/6/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Clarkson, T. "The Role of Soy Isoflavones in Menopausal Health." Medscape. Oct 2010
<http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/745313>

Rossouw JE; Anderson GL; Prentice RL et al. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results From the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2002 Jul 17;288(3):321-33.

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