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Quick GuideMenopause and Sex: 10 Ways to Deal With Menopause Symptoms
What are some symptoms of menopause that can affect sexual function?
A decrease in estrogen levels is the hallmark of menopause, and this change in hormone level can cause a number of different symptoms. Not all women experience all the characteristic symptoms of menopause, but some women may have more severe symptoms than others. In addition to vaginal dryness and decreased libido, menopause can be associated with other troublesome symptoms that can affect sexual drive and function. Examples of these symptoms include difficulty sleeping, hot flashes, headache, mood changes, stress, anxiety, and bladder control issues. These symptoms alone are sufficient to affect sexual function in many women.
What are some treatments for troubling symptoms of menopause?
Estrogen therapy (ET) is available for women to treat symptoms of menopause, although due to some health risks (see below), not all women choose to take estrogen therapy. Estrogen, in pill, patch, trandsdermal spray, or gel form; is the single most effective therapy for troubling symptoms of menopause. Because ET alone can cause uterine cancer (endomketrial cancer), a progestin drug is typically given together with estrogen in women who have a uterus (those who have not undergone a hysterectomy) to eliminate this increased risk. Hormone therapy has been shown to have other risks, including small but significant risks of stroke and heart disease. Because of these risks, women who have no major menopausal symptoms may choose to avoid hormone therapy (HT) altogether. Most doctors agree that hormone therapy, when used for symptoms of menopause, should be used in the lowest effective dose and for the shortest time period of time possible.
Estrogen is also available for use in the treatment of vaginal dryness as an isolated symptom. Topical estrogen is available in forms of creams, vaginal rings (devices that secrete estrogen locally within the vagina for up to three months), and vaginal tablets. These products are inserted directly into the vagina, and they can help relieve some of the symptoms of vaginal dryness and discomfort. Water-soluble lubricants (such as K-Y jelly, K-Y Silk, liquibeads, etc.) can also be effective in the relief of vaginal dryness. Estrogen administered vaginally is given in very low doses, and it is noit associated with the risks of systemic (i.e. bloodborne) hormone therapy such as that given to treat hot flashes and other widespread menopause symptoms.