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A Handle on Hot Flashes

Hormone Therapy Improves Quality of Life During Menopause

The average age of menopause in the U.S. is 52, but for many people, menopause hits a decade earlier.

When a person enters menopause, their ovaries stop producing estrogen. Menopause happens to everyone who has or has had ovaries. Sometimes its symptoms can prevent people from living their lives to the fullest.

Common symptoms of menopause include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of libido
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Bone density loss
  • Painful intercourse

LaVern Rogers of Grand Blanc, Michigan, couldn't get a handle on her health, experiencing dramatic fluctuations in body temperature, hair loss, high blood pressure, mood swings, low libido and more. She was sleeping an average of four hours per night and kept a fan attached to the headboard of her bed because her body temperature oscillated between hot and cold all night. She experienced weight gain because of poor sleep. At the time, she didn't know these symptoms were related to menopause.

"I couldn't pinpoint what was wrong. I had no control," says LaVern. "It all came to a head on Christmas, when I spent one hour crying in the bathroom during our beautiful family celebration."

After her own physician did not offer solutions, she turned to the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause for help.

LaVern's symptoms were typical of someone in menopause. Her treatment wasn't. That's because there's no such thing as typical treatment at the Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause. Each patient's plan is carefully tailored to their individual needs.

"Nobody should have to suffer with disruptive menopausal symptoms when we really have so many different treatments that we can offer now," says Traci A. Kurtzer, MD, a gynecologist and menopause specialist at the Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause. "It always is sad to me when I hear from our patients who felt their symptoms were dismissed or minimized by their healthcare professionals, when they can be so very harmful and impactful to one's quality of life. At Northwestern Medicine, we validate their experience, review the pros and cons of all the options and try to help the patient with an individualized solution by providing education and engaging in shared decision making."

For LaVern, this involved the "gold standard" for the treatment of menopause symptoms: hormone therapy.

According to Dr. Kurtzer, who is also a NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, "Hormone therapy can be safe and is highly effective in the appropriate patient when there are no concerns about potential negative side effects. It is the only option that can also benefit bone health and sexual well-being." When you alleviate hot flashes, many secondary menopause symptoms, such as sleep disruption and mood swings, also subside.

Hormone therapy can be administered the following ways, depending on your preferences and medical history:

  • Pill
  • Patch
  • Spray
  • Vaginal ring or gel

Within days of starting hormone therapy, LaVern started to sleep and feel better. Within two weeks, the hot flashes stopped. She and her husband found renewed intimacy. She got her lifestyle back.

"Hormone therapy was a lifesaver," says LaVern. "I'm calmer. I laugh more. I'm not as lethargic or irritated. My blood pressure has improved. All thanks to Northwestern Medicine."

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