Women and men share many of the same health issues, however, these problems can affect women differently than men, such as:
- Women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men
- Women are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety than men
- The effects of sexually transmitted diseases can be more serious in women
- Osteoarthritis affects more women than men
- Women are more likely to have urinary tract problems
It’s for this reason that it is vital that women not only get an annual wellness exam and gynecological exam but that they also pay attention to their bodies and make themselves and their health a priority.
Menopause is defined as 12 months without a menstrual cycle. This usually occurs in women during their 40’s and 50’s. The average age is 51. It is a natural process, but it can have several symptoms that may affect your sleep and emotional health.
The symptoms of menopause are different for every woman, and can vary in severity. They can include:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
It is not uncommon to skip periods during perimenopause. Sometimes periods will skip a month then return the following month, or skip several months and then start monthly cycles again for a few months. Periods also tend to happen on shorter cycles, so they are closer together. Despite irregular periods, pregnancy is possible. If you’ve skipped a period but aren’t sure you’ve started the menopausal transition, consider a pregnancy test.
When to see a doctor.
Since the age when menopause can start varies, it is important to keep up with your preventative annual wellness visits. During these visits discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend additional screening tests such as mammograms and colonoscopies due to the increased risk of breast and colorectal diseases in women who are menopausal. Other issues menopausal women are more prone to include:
- Heart and Blood Vessel Disease
- Urinary Incontinence
- Sexual Function
- Weight Gain
Pelvic Floor Disorders
Pelvic Floor Disorders occur when the muscles that support your bladder, uterus and vagina and rectum becomes weak and does not support them as well as it should.
There are three main types of pelvic floor disorder:
Women with pelvic floor issues may experience:
- Urinary problems, such as an urgent need to urinate, painful urination or incomplete emptying of their bladder
- Constipation, straining or pain during bowel movements
- Pain or pressure in the vagina or rectum
- A heavy feeling in the pelvis or a bulge in the vagina or rectum
- Muscle spasms in the pelvis
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, tell your doctor. While it may be embarrassing to discuss these symptoms, they can be treated which can improve your quality of life.
Treatment for pelvic floor disorders varies, but it can include:
- Behavior changes, such as avoiding pushing or straining when urinating and having a bowel movement.
- Medicines, such as low doses of muscle relaxants like diazepam
- Physical therapy and biofeedback, which can help you learn how to relax and coordinate the movement of your pelvic floor muscles
Osteoporosis is a bone disease where the body makes too little bone, loses too much bone or both. Over time, this can lead to bones that are weak and can break easily if you fall or, in serious cases, minor bumps or even sneezes. If you are 50 or over and have broken a bone, ask your doctor about a bone density test to see if you have lost bone mass.
Osteoporosis can be caused by several things such as:
- Autoimmune Disorders – such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
- Medical Procedures – like gastric bypass
- Blood Disorders – Leukemia, sickle cell disease
- Digestive Disorders – celiac disease, IBD
- Poor Diet
- Weight Loss
- Certain Medicines
Treating osteoporosis requires a multi-point treatment plan that includes:
- Getting enough calcium in your diet
- Taking vitamin D supplements
- Regular exercise
- making sure your home is free of trip hazards to prevent falls
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid excess alcohol intake
When most people think of breast diseases they immediately think of breast cancer, but breast cancer is only one of many diseases that can affect the breast.
For most women, their breasts change from time to time and as they age. Hormone changes and certain medications can cause lumps, bumps, and discharges. These are all possible symptoms of breast cancer, but they are also symptoms of other breast diseases some of which are benign and/or very treatable.
Types of Breast Disease
Although women fear breast cancer the most, it is actually not the most common breast condition. Some common breast issues include:
- Fibrocystic breast changes – lumpiness, thickening, and swelling, often just before a woman’s period
- Cysts – fluid-filled lumps
- Fibroadenomas – solid, round, rubbery lumps that move easily when pushed, occurring mostly in younger women
- Intraductal papillomas – growths similar to warts near the nipple
- Blocked milk ducts
- Milk production when a woman is not breastfeeding
It can be hard to tell what kind of lump or bump you may have, so it is important to see your doctor immediately if you notice a change in your breasts. Your doctor will do an examination and may order a mammogram to rule out cancer and then develop a treatment plan if needed from there.
You are the person who knows your breasts best. Do a monthly breast self-exam and report anything out of the ordinary to your doctor.