The Role Of Menopause Tests
Menopause testing is used to determine if a patients symptoms are part of menopause or related to another condition. Symptoms related to menopause include:
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Vaginal dryness, irritation, or discharge
- Mood swings
- Trouble concentrating
In evaluating the cause of these symptoms, a doctor may ask about a patients age, symptoms, and family history. In around 75% of women, symptoms of perimenopause begin during the expected age range and doctors can diagnose menopause without laboratory testing. Menopause is confirmed after a woman has had no menstrual period for 12 months.
However, menopause testing is often ordered when the cause of symptoms is not clear. For example, menopause testing may be used for women who have had a hysterectomy, women who begin to have symptoms of menopause several years before age 50, or when a woman experiences abnormal symptoms suggestive of menopause.
Could You Have Lyme Disease And Not Even Know It
The scary truth about this sneaky illness.
After you get home from a glorious summer hike, you probably do a few things: post photos of the great outdoors to Instagram, take a quick shower, and chow down on some post-workout snacks. But if checking yourself for ticks isn’t a part of that routine, you might be leaving yourself open to Lyme disease. “It happens frequently that people have Lyme disease and don’t know it,” says Andrea Gaito, M.D., a rheumatologist with a private practice in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites, especially those from deer ticks. Approximately 70 percent of deer ticks are infected, says Gaito. And those of you in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania should be on high-alert: Your states have the highest rates of Lyme disease, which is much more manageable when caught early on, says Gaito.
It sounds pretty scary, but there are ways to figure out if you’ve got Lyme disease before it really has its hooks in youor even prevent it in the first place. Here’s what to look out for.
Hot Flashes And Night Sweats
About two-thirds of all women have hot flashes, the most common symptom during the perimenopause. A hot flash or flush consists of a sudden hot feeling in the face, neck, and chest, blushing, faster pulse, and sometimes perspiration, often followed by a chill, lasting from three to six minutes. The most common duration of hot flashes is three to five years. Hot flashes that occur with heavy perspiration during sleep are called night sweats. Night sweats and hot flashes may interfere with sleep, as can falling estrogen levels alone. Inadequate sleep in turn triggers irritability and fatigue. Environmental conditions that may trigger hot flashes include:
- Warm environment
Avoiding these conditions as much as possible will help reduce the number and severity of hot flashes.
Hot flashes may be worse for women with neurological disabilities such as SCI and MS due to preexisting vasomotor instability, also in women with joint and connective tissue diseases who take corticosteroid medications. However, all flushing is not necessarily menopausal in women with disabilities it may be neurological in origin. The presence of other perimenopausal symptoms may help distinguish hot flashes from neurological flushing that will not respond to estrogen replacement therapy.
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Menopause Signs And Symptoms
As a woman approaches menopause, her ovaries make different amounts of hormones called estrogen and progesterone. She may experience changes in her menstrual cycle and may also start to have a variety of other menopausal symptoms. These may include:
- Hot flashes which cause a sudden feeling of heat in the face, neck, chest, back and arms. An episode can generally last between a few seconds to ten minutes. A woman may sweat during a hot flash and have cold chills after the hot flash.
- Trouble sleeping, such as having a hard time falling and staying asleep. Hot flashes during the night can cause women to sweat heavily .
- Vaginal problems, such as vaginal dryness, which can cause itching, burning and discomfort. It may lead to painful intercourse and cuts and tears in the vagina.
- Mood changes or irritability.
Menopausal symptoms may be different for each woman. For example, hot flashes for some women might be severe enough to interfere with their lives, while for others they may be mild. Some women dont experience any hot flashes at all.
There are also longer-term health concerns that can emerge after menopause due to a decrease in estrogen. For example, following menopause, bone density loss might occur and may lead to osteoporosis, causing an increased risk of fractures. The risk of heart disease may also go up. Dont forget to talk to your healthcare provider about the long-term health effects of menopause and how they might affect you.
What Causes Lyme Disease
Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the prime culprits of carrying Lyme disease, and the infection is most common in the northeastern and north central U.S.
The bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is so widespread in parts of the country that healthcare providers will now test for it and the other, lesser-known tick-borne diseases, some of which have similar symptoms in patients complaining of fatigue with no other obvious causes.
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Living With Lyme Disease Felt Like Being Unable To Pull Up The Blinds On The Window And See The Sky
Living with Lyme Disease felt like being unable to pull up the blinds on the window and see the sky. I could still get through my day and moderately take care of my children, but I had no sense of a life beyond what was right in front of me, nor the ability to imagine one.
It’s hard to say exactly how my chronic Lyme developed. I’d taken antibiotics for a bullseye rash in 2002 but never experienced any symptoms until after the birth of my second child in 2010. Did I get another tick bite? Did the stress of the pregnancy trigger the fatigue and brain fog which came on with a vengeance after I’d seen an osteopath for a regular postpartum adjustment? Did that treatment release some long-dormant bacteria back into my bloodstream?
What matters is that I felt like a shell of myself. For years. Going up stairs left me out of breath, something I wouldn’t have believed possible when I’d run a ten-miler one weekend and a half-marathon back-to-back, just a few months before getting pregnant. If I had to carry my baby or wear her in a sling, my endurance was even lower. Walking uphill to get my older child at the bus stop required significant recovery before I could even fathom starting to make dinner. If I attended a PTA meeting on a Tuesday and a parenting talk on Thursday, I was exhausted for days.
For now, I’m thrilled to no longer feel like I’m swimming through jello, finally able to move freely through the world.
You Have Panic Attacks
Some Lyme patients experience extreme fear. The episodes pass after a short time, but they can be scary in the moment, Smith says. With a panic anxiety attack, oftentimes the heart starts racing and they get this fear and think theyre going to die, she says. Dont miss these other clear signs of a panic attack.
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Your Childs Grades Are Slipping
If a kid was an all-A student, did well in school, and is suddenly struggling, that may well be because of Lyme, Barenbaum says. Thats because children with Lyme could have cognitive problems that make it hard to look at the blackboard, listen to the teacher, and write notes at the same timemultitasking skills most kids can handle, she says. Memory loss might also make it hard for them to remember the notes theyve studied or what a teacher said, Leventhal says.
Tracking Clinical Responses To Lyme Treatment
Wayne: Lets talk about the pros and cons of replacing hormones. In functional medicine we thrive on replacing hormones. Here Id like to look at reasons for delaying hormone replacement. First, you and I are in total agreement that each individual patient requires a different approach. That is absolutely the most important underlying principle. Second, as providers we need not be wedded to any one rigid philosophical approach to treatment. Third, as we have discussed, there is a difference in treating values outside the reference range as opposed to those inside the range or optimal. There is wisdom in reading the symptoms that reflect immune system activity in the moment. Fundamentally, in the absence of comprehensive and reliable testing, these symptoms are the most important evidence we have of elusive intracellular infections, and they guide treatment. So here is my controversial view: I do not always do hormone replacement first.
Treating New Patients
Wayne: If Im seeing a new patient I dont want to interfere with my patients symptomatic presentation by making hormonal changes. I want to be guided by the wisdom of the immune system and my understanding of how this patient is wired. I want to understand the underlining reason for this patients chronic illness. If I change the picture too soon, that could interfere with my ability to read this patients symptoms and could delay my efforts to determine the type of infection for which the patient needs to be treated.
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When Menopause Comes Early
The transition into menopause can be challenging, regardless of your age. But for 1 percent of women in the US, menopause can begin much earlier than the average age of fifty: It can begin as early as your late thirties. And because early menopause affects only a small portion of the population, its not commonly discussed, making it even more shocking and confusing for those going through it.
Gynecologist Sherry Ross walks us through the signs, symptoms, and health risks of early menopauseand shares her advice for managing its symptoms and effects early on.
Helpful Tips If Youre Experiencing Symptoms Of Menopause
After reading about the common signs of menopause, you may be wondering what can help alleviate the discomfort that comes with some of these symptoms. Certain lifestyle changes can help you reduce the intensity of menopausal symptoms. Wearing clothes in layers and drinking a cold beverage as soon as a hot flash starts can help you reduce its intensity. You can also track what triggers your symptoms and avoid foods that are excessively spicy or hot.
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How Stephanie Got Answers
About four years ago, Tait started to suspect she had Lyme disease. A family friend had Lyme, and Tait recognized some of her own symptoms appearing in her friend. She asked her doctor for an ELISA, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or a blood test thats typically the first way doctors test patients who may have Lyme disease. When she learned her insurance wouldnt cover the cost, she paid for the test out of pocket. It came back negative.
Tait, however, wasnt convinced. She asked for another test, but she said the doctor refused. So she turned to a private lab for a second test, this one a Western Blot, which doctors typically turn to next, to verify a positive ELISA result. That test was positive for the Lyme antibodies.
I sobbed, because there it was in my hands that I wasnt just jumping to conclusions, Tait said. I walked back into my doctors office and said, Here it is. They said, Well, we didnt do this test, so how do we know? I said, Youve got to be kidding me. I have a lab test!
Tait started getting treatment at a private clinic in Idaho that specializes in treating Lyme disease, about a six-hour drive from where she lives.
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics, and when treated early, people with Lyme usually recover completely. Taits treatment plan included antibiotics, immunotherapy, various supplements as well as dietary changes. But because she had been sick for so long, some of her health problems were irreversible.
What Are The Treatment Options For Abnormal Perimenopausal Bleeding
The perimenopausal period is the most vulnerable time for hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus. However, hysterectomy should seldom be the first treatment choice for abnormal bleeding. Depending on the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding, treatment options include:
Nutritional supplements. If you have more bleeding than usual, take an iron supplement to prevent anemia. If you are feeling more tired than usual or having more frequent headaches, anemia may be the cause. Although dietary sources of iron alone will not be sufficient, increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as beef, beans, and nuts will help. Taking grape seed capsules, 1,000 – 2,000 mg daily, may help decrease the amount of menstrual flow if capillary fragility is a cause.
Hormonal medication. Your health care provider may prescribe a low-dose birth control pill or progestin to regulate heavy, long menstrual periods. Some perimenopausal women have benefitted from applying a natural progesterone cream to their skin during the two weeks before menstruation but some gynecologists disapprove of this option because the amount of progesterone actually absorbed is unknown. Other prescription hormonal drugs may be used for short-term treatment.
A Q& a With Sherry Ross Md
Menopause is the natural process through which a womans ovaries stop producing estrogen, halting fertility and menstruation. The average age of menopause is fifty-one years old. Early menopause happens when this process begins at a younger age than usual. Many havent heard much about early menopause because it affects only 1 percent of women in the US. In addition to experiencing hormonal symptomswhich are similar to those in menopause at a later ageif a woman has not had her period in over a year, early menopause is a likely cause.
Diagnosing early menopause is challenging for the health care provider, and the diagnosis can also be challenging for a young woman to understand. Since only 1 percent of women experience this, its important for health care providers to pay close attention to a womans symptoms, take a detailed medical history, and perform the correct blood tests.
If a woman does not have a period for twelve months and has other symptoms of low estrogen, and her blood testsmainly focused on her levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogenare consistent with menopause before she is forty years old, early or premature menopause should be suspected. Other medical issues, including thyroid dysfunction, autoimmune diseases, and infections, need to be ruled out to make a definitive diagnosis.
On a positive note, women with early menopause have a .
Diseases With Similar Symptoms Like Menopause
In ancient Greece, men believed that a womans uterus wandered around her body, causing problems wherever it landed. This gave birth to a diagnosis that was popular all the way up until the early 20th century: female hysteria. Hysteria is derived from the Greek word for uterus, hystera, and was considered an especially troubling medical diagnosis for women.
Though weve since evolved from that way of thinking, women are still being misdiagnosed by doctors. Often their symptoms are chalked up to changing hormones or menopause, causing doctors to sometimes miss conditions that become life-threatening if left untreated.
According to a 2016 study by the University of Leeds, women have a 50 percent higher chance of being misdiagnosed after a heart attack than men. A 2014 study published in the medical journal Diagnosis found that women are also 33 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed following a stroke.
Worried your menopause symptoms could be something else? Here are seven diseases that share some of the same symptoms as menopause.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can become dangerous if it isnt diagnosed. The most common signs of the disease are a rash with a bulls eye pattern and flu-like symptoms such as fever or fatigue. However, Lyme disease can also cause extreme headaches, dilated pupils, and a quickening heartbeat all symptoms that are associated with menopause.
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Various Bacterial Fungal And Viral Infections Can Cause Endocrine Disruption And Are Not Commonly Evaluated
I have encountered numerous women who experienced premature menopause or perimenopause because of exposures to bacterial infections like Lyme disease, mycoplasma and mold toxicity. Rarely do I see any of these conditions evaluated in women who are experiencing hormonal imbalance.
Mold is especially toxic to the endocrine system and often times will cause thyroid disorders that can go undetected for years. Thyroid labs will often be normal but the patient will be symptomatic. Evaluating for autoimmune thyroid disease can be helpful in identifying these patients and providing treatment. Unfortunately, for many people they do not receive treatment until the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH is abnormal. Many people will suffer for 5-10 years before they receive treatment.
When autoimmune disease is an issue, it is a dysfunction of the immune system that is present and support to rebuild the immune system is necessary. Without support the immune system can often attack another part of the body such as developing Rheumatoid Arthritis years later.
What You Need To Know About Menopause
Menopause is a natural part of the aging process for most women. It is defined as the time in a womans life when her period has stopped for 12 consecutive months. This means that she has reached the end of her reproductive years.
In the US, the age at which menopause begins can range from 40 years to 58 years, with an average start at 51 years. Read on to learn about menopause and ways you can help manage your symptoms.
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