SHARING IS CARING
Hot Flashes? Night Sweats? Insomnia? Itchy skin? Whether your ovaries were removed or not, you may be experiencing some menopausal symptoms that need to be addressed with your doctor. Simple symptoms may easily be ignored, but it's important to note that these symptoms have been reported by women experiencing menopause. If you have any of these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor during your next checkup.
- Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats, and/or cold flashes and/or clammy feeling
- Irregular heart beat
- Mood swings, sudden tears
- Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
- Loss of libido
- Dry vagina
- Pain during sex
- Crashing fatigue
- Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
- Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
- Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
- Disturbing memory lapses
- Incontinence, especially upon sneezing or laughing; urge incontinence
- Itchy, crawly skin
- Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
- Increased tension in muscles
- Breast tenderness
- Headache change: increase or decrease
- Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
- Sudden bouts of bloating
- Worsening of existing conditions
- Increase in allergies
- Weight gain
- Hair loss or thinning on head, in pubic area, or over whole body; increase in facial hair
- Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
- Changes in body odor
- Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
- Tingling in the extremities
- Gum problems, increased bleeding
- Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
- Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break more easily
- Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, 'whooshing,' buzzing, etc.
Understand Your Options
If you had your ovaries removed, it is very important for you to consider how you will replace the hormones your body provided to you through your ovaries. Many women, especially young HysterSisters, are confused about the need for hormone replacement therapy. They often stop taking HRT within a few months after their surgery and then after a few months of misery return to their doctor's office complaining of many medical issues. Your ovaries provided hormones essential to your health. Do not overlook this important aspect of your post-hysterectomy and oophorectomy (ovary removal) needs.
If you find that you can not take hormone therapy, there are some alternatives that are available to relieve your menopausal symptoms.
If you have not had surgery yet and have not made the decision to keep your ovaries, the HysterSisters strongly suggest discussing your options with your doctor. Often, alternative treatments do not offer back to you what your body needs to feel balanced and healthy. If you can keep your ovaries, allowing them to maintain your hormone levels even for a few years, this would be an excellent decision.
The key is for you, the patient, to get all the information you can to make the best decision for your optimal health.
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Talk to Your Doctor
Make an appointment and talk to your doctor about your menopause symptoms. Prior to your appointment, keep a journal, writing down every hot flash and every symptom with a score for intensity. This information will help to demonstrate to your doctor your level of suffering.
If your doctor prescribes HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for you, take it as prescribed. Do not skip your dosages or alter your dosages. Again, keep a journal to mark down hot flashes and intensity levels. Often it takes a few weeks for your body to adjust to the new hormones . Don't give up and tweak things without allowing your body to adjust.
Return to your doctor with your updated journal to discuss any changes needed in your prescription. Many women find the most convenient way to take their prescribed HRT is the hormone patch. Others find a daily pill easier to remember. Find out what works for you and stick with it. Ask your doctor about any changes in dosages you would like to adjust.
HRT Or No HRT?
One of the problems with the news media is their tendency towards sensationalist headlines and their coverage of studies with all of two sentences. For example, "Coffee is better for you than tea." However, when one studies the article itself, it would appear that wasn't really the conclusion at all. Yes, coffee drinkers were healthier than tea drinkers in a small group of people studied, but it was pointed out that this meant nothing as the tea drinkers were older and poorer in this particular group. There are also poorly designed studies which stumble across an odd piece of information in a group of people who are being tracked across the years. This odd piece of information is then studied from all different angles.
Each study is like a little snapshot and it's only by putting all the snapshots together that you have a good sense of the picture. The news media announce each snapshot as if it's the "whole truth." But, of course, it's contradictory. Read More.
Kept Ovaries But They Aren't Working?
Sometimes the ovaries stop working temporarily as a result of a hysterectomy. It's as if they go into a bit of a shock and stop producing hormones for some time. Or, damage may occur to the ovaries' blood supply, causing them to malfunction. When your ovaries are not producing enough estrogen, you'll experience mild menopausal symptoms until the ovaries normalize again. Temporary ovarian shutdown usually lasts for a few weeks to a couple of months.
Occasionally, the ovaries will shut down permanently after a hysterectomy, even in younger women, for no apparent reason. If this happens, you'll go through surgical menopause now. Surgical menopause can hit a woman harder and faster than natural menopause, and it can be particularly difficult to deal with for a woman who kept her ovaries in the expectation that she would avoid menopause altogether for some time to come. Some studies suggest as many as 50% of women who undergo a hysterectomy, and retain their ovaries, will have them cease to function within five years. The good news with that is that even if they do shut down, they will continue to provide us with small amounts of those much-needed hormones, easing the transition into menopause to some degree.
If you suspect that this is what is happening, ask your doctor to check your FSH levels. You can manage menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, etc. with prescription or over-the-counter remedies in the short term. If your ovaries don't come back, though, you may want to explore the idea of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). There are positives and negatives associated with HRT, so do your research and get a second opinion before proceeding if that's the direction you decide to go.
Natural Menopause vs. Surgical Menopause
Many women who have their ovaries removed go abruptly into menopause soon after their procedures. It can take a little time as residual hormones fade away, but there is a good chance that menopause symptoms will hit you a great deal faster and harder than someone going through natural menopause. A person going through natural menopause, on the other hand, is more likely to have a gradual shutdown of her ovaries over some time, with the ovaries still producing some hormones for a while. The process of natural menopause is usually more erratic than surgical menopause and can be slow or fast, difficult or relatively easy. There is a great deal of variation in women's experiences.
Know that even if you keep one or more ovaries, they may shut down anyway. Sometimes they do not reestablish their hormone production after the shock of surgery, and you will experience surgical menopause despite having kept an ovary or two.
When going through menopause, whether surgical or natural, discuss your hormone replacement options with your doctor. Some women choose not to use hormone replacement therapy due to family history and risk factors. Others will find significant relief of their symptoms through HRT. Seek a second opinion, ask the HysterSisters, and research until you are satisfied that you are choosing the right course for you.
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More Menopause Resources
Check out these resources to help you as you navigate through the menopause jungle. Don't forget our best resource - our menopause discussion forums where thousands of HysterSisters participate daily! AND - Don't forget to ask your doctor for additional resources.
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