Women's Health Issues
Women’s health is an important area to discuss because it helps a woman through the different stages in her life, as well as informing her about certain conditions and diseases that may occur. Educating women about life transitions is key to keeping a healthy, happy, and productive life. Below is a list of some of the conditions we treat at our clinic for women.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)
PCOS is when a collection of tiny cysts develops on a woman’s ovaries. These cysts do not cause any real issues unless they become big. Diagnosis of PCOS typically occurs during late teenage years or early adulthood when a woman presents with abnormal menstrual cycles and one of the following signs of androgen excess:
- Hirsutism (a.k.a., excess hair growth in undesirable areas of the body)
- Hair loss
- Abdominal/pelvic pain
- Areas of dark skin on the back of the neck
PCOS can be difficult to diagnosis since no one single test diagnoses PCOS. 1 out of 10 women experience PCOS sometime in their life. PCOS often goes undiagnosed until these women seek treatment for infertility. It is important to seek early intervention for PCOS since effective treatment can reduce a woman’s chance of other conditions like diabetes, cancer, liver and heart disease.
Infertility means that a woman is unable to conceive despite having regular, unprotected sex after one year of trying. Age, smoking, alcohol, obesity, diabetes, mental stress, and sexually transmitted infections can all contribute to infertility.
Some common causes of infertility include:
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- Poor egg quality
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Toxin overload
- Elevated blood sugar levels
- Thyroid disorder
- Chronic diseases
- Ovulation disorders
Getting functional medicine testing plus a physical exam by your integrative medicine physician can help you determine the underlying cause of infertility. A personalized treatment plan can then be defined which improves your chances of conceiving and carrying a full-term pregnancy.
Menopause naturally occurs in a woman’s life when she has stopped menstruating for over one year. The average age of menopause is between age 45 to 55. Ten years prior to the official diagnosis of menopause the ovaries stop regularly releasing eggs and fertility dramatically drops. During these 10 years (also called pre-menopause) a women’s body goes through changes since there is a shift in hormone levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
These changes may present with the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal or urinary complications
- Mood swings or mood changes
- Changing feelings towards sex
- Osteoporosis (a.k.a., thinning bone density and quality)
Medical treatment can help lessen these symptoms and possibly decrease these women’s risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and cancer.
Endometriosis occurs when uterine cells grow outside of the uterus, such as in the ovaries, bowels, or tissue lining the pelvis. It can be associated with pain, irregular menstrual bleeding, and infertility.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful menstrual periods
- Pain during sex
- Excessive menstrual bleeding
- Pain during bowel movements or urination
Endometriosis can be mistaken for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ovarian cysts, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is important to get the right diagnosis and seek effective treatment.
IRREGULAR MENSTRUAL CYCLES
Women typically have menstrual periods every 28 days. They can fluctuate anywhere from 21 to 35 days, and typically last 4 to 7 days. An irregular menstrual cycle means that the interval between periods varies every month -- making it difficult to predict when to expect one’s period. It is very common for women to experience irregular periods especially during the first three years after menarche occurs.
Examples of abnormal menstruation are:
- Amenorrhea: when woman’s periods completely stop. This is normal if a woman is pregnant, breastfeeding, or has undergone menopause. Otherwise, the absence of a period for 90 days or more is considered abnormal. Amenorrhea may also be associated with other symptoms like hair loss, milky nipple discharge, headaches, vision changes, and/or excessive facial hair. Amenorrhea may develop because of other conditions like a genetic disorder, uterine, ovarian, vaginal, or brain abnormality; excessive weight loss, or infertility. Treating the underlying cause of amenorrhea typically resolves the menstrual problem.
- Oligomenorrhea: when a woman’s period occurs infrequently.
- Abnormal Menstruation: includes any of the following: having heavy menstrual flow; period lasting longer than 7 days; bleeding/spotting between periods, after sex, or after menopause.
- Dysmenorrhea: when a woman’s menstrual period is painful. Symptoms of menstrual cramps include any of the following:
- Dull, throbbing, or constant cramping pain in the lower abdomen
- Radiating pain travelling into the lower back and thighs
- Loose stools
The most common causes of irregular periods include:
- Eating disorders
- Excessive sudden weight gain or loss
- Intense stress or emotional problems
- Hormonal complications
- Issues with the pelvic organs (i.e., uterine polyps or fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, PCOS, cancer)
- Medications (i.e., birth control pills)
- Medical conditions (i.e., anemia, other bleeding disorder)
- Complications of pregnancy (i.e., ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage)
- Premature ovarian failure – when a woman stops having her period before age 40. It can be caused by cancer treatments or an underlying chronic illness.
It is important to talk to your doctor and seek treatment options for the following reasons:
- If you have missed at least three menstrual periods consecutively,
- If you have never had a menstrual period over the age of 18,
- If you have painful menstrual cramps which disrupt your daily life,
- If you have heavy menstrual periods.
If you have any questions regarding women’s health issues, call our office today to schedule an evaluation. Education is key to women’s health.