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    Women’s Health Care: Diabetes in Women

    Women’s Health Care: Diabetes in Women

    Diabetes is a serious health issue. In the U.S., an estimated 34 million people live with diabetes. This is a chronic disease that can shorten your lifespan without proper treatment and management from your women’s health care team. What many people don’t know is that diabetes can affect women a little differently, which can increase health risks and can delay diagnosis and treatment. In this article, we’ll focus on diabetes in women and what you can do to improve your health.

    Talk to Our Women’s Health Care Team If You Think You Have Diabetes

    woman smiling with her dog after getting women's health care for diabetes management

    Our women’s health care providers can test you for diabetes and help you manage your condition.

    Diabetes is a serious health condition that comes with many health risks and complications. Therefore, it’s essential to make an appointment at our women’s health clinic if you think you might have diabetes. Our team can help you find underlying causes of your symptoms and test for diabetes. Once diagnosed with diabetes, we also offer treatment and ongoing treatment monitoring to help you feel your best and stay healthy.

    As many as one in nine women in the U.S. have diabetes, which translates to about 15 million women. Yet, many of these women go undiagnosed and are unaware of the dangers to their health. We’ll go over some of the common symptoms of diabetes in a later section so you can see if you have common signs of the disease. Getting annual health exams can also help with early diagnosis and treatment, as during these appointments we look for common signs of health conditions that might be easy to overlook.

    Risks Women Face with Diabetes

    Everyone who suspects they have diabetes should get treatment as soon as possible because of the potential health risks. However, women may be particularly at risk for complications. While diabetes is more common in men, women are more likely to suffer from complications, such as heart disease and kidney disease.

    Women with diabetes are about four times as likely to suffer from heart disease, while men are two times more likely to develop heart disease if they have diabetes. As heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, this is a serious concern. Heart disease increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions. In addition, women with diabetes are more likely to die due to heart disease compared to men.

    Diabetes can also increase your risk for kidney disease, as the kidneys work in overdrive to get rid of excess blood sugar. Over time, your kidneys can become damaged from all the extra work and they can’t filter your blood properly. This can lead to major health complications, including kidney failure. Both men and women with diabetes are at risk for kidney disease, but kidney disease is often more severe for women with diabetes.

    In addition, women with diabetes have higher risk for other complications, such as blindness and depression. Diabetes can damage your circulatory system, including the sensitive blood vessels in your eyes, which can eventually lead to vision loss and blindness. Diabetes is also linked to higher rates of depression. Therefore, there are many risks associated with diabetes, which is why you should get help from our women’s health care providers if you think you might have diabetes or have an increased risk for diabetes.

    What is Diabetes?

    Most people have heard of diabetes before, but you might not know exactly what it is. Diabetes is a condition where your blood sugar is higher than normal. For people with type 1 diabetes, this is because your body attacks the pancreatic cells that make insulin, which is a hormone that allows your cells to use sugar in your blood and turn it into energy. Because your body doesn’t produce insulin, your cells are unable to turn sugar into energy. This means the sugar simply stays in the blood instead.

    Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for about 95% of cases. This is where your cells become less sensitive to insulin over time. Because the cells are somewhat resistant to insulin, they are unable to use as much sugar in your blood for energy, which increases the glucose (sugar) in your blood.

    In addition, you can also have prediabetes, which is a condition where your blood sugar levels are elevated, but not to the same extent as someone with diabetes. This is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Many people with untreated prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within five years. However, it can also be treatable to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes with early intervention.

    Therefore, it’s important to talk to our women’s health care providers about diabetes, including your risk and how to prevent it. Getting regular blood sugar tests can also help with early detection so you can take steps to improve your health and prevent complications.

    Symptoms to Talk to Our Women’s Health Care Providers About

    There are many symptoms of diabetes that you may experience. Some symptoms of diabetes for both men and women include:

    • Excessive thirst
    • Excessive hunger
    • Frequent urination
    • Weight changes
    • Fatigue
    • Blurred vision
    • Slow healing wounds
    • Numb or tingling hands and feet
    • Increased number of infections
    • Breath that smells fruity, sweet, or like acetone

    If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to come into our women’s health clinic to discuss them with our providers.

    Symptoms of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes often come on gradually, which makes it harder to notice the symptoms. Several of the symptoms are also easy to explain away as getting older or living a busy lifestyle, like feeling fatigued or extremely hungry. However, ignoring symptoms can delay diagnosis and treatment from our women’s health care providers. So, we recommend making an appointment as soon as possible if you notice these issues.

    Symptoms Specific to Women

    In addition, there are several diabetes symptoms that are unique to women. Some of these symptoms include:

    • Increased number of yeast infections
    • Increased number of urinary tract infections
    • Sexual dysfunction
      • Vaginal dryness
      • Low sex drive
      • Fewer orgasms
      • Lower sexual satisfaction

    There are several reasons why you might experience these symptoms of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage the cardiovascular system, which can reduce circulation. Poor circulation to the vulva and vagina can cause dryness and also make infections worse, as blood flow is necessary for healing. High blood sugar levels can also act as food for bacteria and yeast germs, which can help them grow more quickly and lead to yeast infections and UTIs. Diabetes can also cause nerve damage (neuropathy), which can reduce feeling in your vulva and vagina, which may also account for sexual dysfunction in diabetic women.

    Also, many people don’t know that female hormones like estrogen and progesterone can affect blood sugar levels in women with diabetes. For instance, many women notice their blood sugar levels rise around the luteal phase of their period, which is about two weeks before the start of their period. In menopause, hormone fluctuations and low hormone levels can cause unpredictable increases and decreases in blood sugar. Therefore, this is another way that diabetes can affect women differently.

    Ask Our Women’s Health Care Providers About Your Diabetes Risk Factors

    Like many other health conditions, you might have a higher risk for developing diabetes due to certain risk factors. For instance, if you have a family history of diabetes, you might have a higher likelihood of developing diabetes. Some other risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption.

    In addition, other health issues can also increase your risk for diabetes. Women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) are more likely to develop diabetes because it can cause insulin resistance.

    Gestational diabetes can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and typically goes away soon after birth.

    It’s important to discuss your risk factors with our women’s health care providers. This helps you understand your risks and what you can do to help prevent diabetes. Our team may recommend lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or losing weight to reduce your risk for diabetes. Depending on your risks, we may also recommend more frequent screenings to help with early detection of diabetes and prediabetes.

    Women’s Health Care for Prediabetes

    If you develop prediabetes, there are often several things you can do to treat your elevated blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Our women’s health care providers can test your blood sugar levels and create a personalized treatment plan for you. Oftentimes, these treatments include weight loss, improving your diet, and getting active. We may also recommend quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption. Maintaining a healthy weight and losing even a small amount of weight, such as 10% of your total weight, can help reduce blood sugar levels significantly.

    Women’s Health Care for Diabetes

    If you have diabetes, there are several ways our team can help. While there is currently no cure for this condition, diabetes management can help you reduce your symptoms and health risks. Typically, diabetes treatments involve a mixture of lifestyle changes, like losing weight and beginning an exercise program, as well as medications. Insulin is one of the most common medications for people with diabetes, however there are also other medications that may work better for you. Our women’s health care team works with you to find treatments that work well for your diabetes and your lifestyle.

    Visit HerKare: A Women’s Health Clinic that Cares

    Addressing your whole health is easy with our team at HerKare. We are dedicated to empowering women through top quality health care services from providers that listen and care about you. Our team offers personalized treatment solutions and ongoing monitoring for a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, menopause, high cholesterol, and other common health issues. Schedule an appointment today at one of our convenient locations!

    Estrogen Replacement Therapy vs. Phytoestrogens for Menopause

    Estrogen Replacement Therapy vs. Phytoestrogens for Menopause

    If you have menopause symptoms like hot flashes and mood changes, you might be wondering what treatments are available. Many women use estrogen replacement therapy to reduce symptoms and side effects of menopause. However, some people wonder if phytoestrogens, also known as plant estrogens, are a good alternative to hormone therapy. We’ll explore this question and recent research on phytoestrogens in this article.

    woman in kitchen surrounded by foods with phytoestrogens, may still need estrogen replacement therapy for menopause symptoms

    You can find phytoestrogens in many foods, but they may not be enough to replace estrogen replacement therapy as a menopause treatment.

    What is Estrogen Replacement Therapy?

    Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is a common treatment option for women with menopause symptoms. As you reach menopause, your hormone levels start to decline, including estrogen and progesterone. This is what causes your periods to stop. However, low hormone levels can also lead to menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood changes, and vaginal dryness. Lower estrogen levels during menopause can also increase your risk for other health conditions, like heart disease, osteoporosis, and strokes.

    Estrogen replacement therapy is a treatment where you take medications to increase the estrogen levels in your blood. This can alleviate many of the symptoms and health risks of menopause. In fact, ERT is considered one of the most effective treatment solutions for menopausal hot flashes.

    There are many kinds of estrogen replacement therapies or modalities to choose from. Medications can come in patches, pills, injections, and many other forms. You also typically have the choice between synthetic and bioidentical versions.

    What is Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?

    Our providers at HerKare typically use bioidentical hormone therapy to help with menopause symptoms. Bioidentical hormones are identical to the type of estrogen your ovaries naturally produce. Scientists use estrogens found in plants and alter them to match human estrogen. By contrast, synthetic estrogens are not the same molecular structure as natural estrogen, which means that your body uses them slightly differently. Many people prefer bioidentical hormones because they are molecularly identical to the natural hormones that your body produces on its own.

    What are Phytoestrogens?

    Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like chemicals found in plants. In fact, bioidentical hormones often start out as phytoestrogens extracted from different sources like wild yams, cactus, and soy plants. Professionals in medical labs then convert these to bioidentical forms of estrogen and other hormones.

    Phytoestrogens are similar to the estrogen you make in your ovaries but do have some differences. For instance, phytoestrogens can bind to the estrogen receptors in your body. However, they do typically have weaker effects compared to human or bioidentical estrogen.

    Soy Offers Higher Levels of Phytoestrogens

    There are many sources of phytoestrogens, including flaxseeds, tea, fruits, and vegetables. Soy is a food that is high in phytoestrogens. Specifically, soy offers high levels of isoflavones, which is the most potent type of phytoestrogen.

    Many people believe soy has amazing benefits because cultures that typically have high soy diets also tend to have lower rates of heart disease, longer lifespans, fewer menopause symptoms, and other positive health markers. However, soy is still being studied and its effects on the body are complicated. There are still many questions when it comes to soy, including whether it’s beneficial or safe to eat it in large quantities.

    As far as how soy compares to estrogen replacement therapy for menopause symptoms, the evidence is inconclusive. We’ll get into some of the recent research done on phytoestrogens, but keep in mind that a lot of the evidence regarding soy and hot flashes is conflicting.

    Can Phytoestrogens Replace Estrogen Replacement Therapy for Menopause?

    The big question many have is whether you can simply eat more foods with phytoestrogens (or take phytoestrogen supplements) instead of starting estrogen replacement therapy. Scientists are still researching phytoestrogens and the role they play. However, a lot of the research has been disappointing. Here are some things you should know about the results of phytoestrogen studies for menopause symptoms:

    The Evidence is Conflicting on Whether Phytoestrogens Help Menopause Symptoms

    As we mentioned, research is still ongoing, but a lot of the studies have conflicting results. Some studies have found positive effects from phytoestrogens, with some women noticing improvement in their hot flash symptoms. However, other studies have found no difference between phytoestrogens and placebo. Also, even the positive studies often don’t offer similar results. For instance, while some have found over a 50% reduction in the number and severity of hot flashes with phytoestrogens, others have found small reductions of just one hot flash per day for women who suffer from on average 10 to 12 each day. Therefore, a lot of the evidence for phytoestrogens is up for debate.

    Phytoestrogens May be Anti-Estrogenic

    Another potential issue with taking phytoestrogens is that they can actually be anti-estrogenic. This basically means that they may block estrogen receptors or reduce how much estrogen your body produces.

    For one, phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors, which can block them from the real estrogen in your blood. Since phytoestrogens have much weaker effects than human estrogen, this could affect the cells in your body and your overall health.

    What’s more, too many phytoestrogens could lead to lower estrogen levels overall. To understand why, let’s go over a quick crash course on how your body produces estrogen: The hypothalamus is part of your brain responsible for controlling sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. When it senses that you have low estrogen in your blood, it sends a signal to the pituitary gland, which releases follicle stimulating hormone. This hormone reaches your ovaries and causes them to increase estrogen production.

    However, phytoestrogens can actually disrupt this process. In some cases, your hypothalamus may not realize that your body needs to produce more estrogen because it believes that the phytoestrogens are human estrogen. Therefore, many women may experience even lower estrogen levels when eating a diet high in phytoestrogens or taking phytoestrogen supplements.

    Estrogen Replacement Therapy is Still the Recommended Treatment for Menopause Symptoms

    Because of the lack of evidence and conflicting research results, many scientists now believe that the benefits of phytoestrogens have been overstated. Currently, estrogen replacement therapy is still the go-to treatment option for women with hot flashes and menopause symptoms. ERT has been shown time and time again to be effective at reducing hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms of menopause. This form of hormone therapy has also been well studied for decades. As such, many health care providers recommend using estrogen replacement therapy for your menopause symptoms unless there is a reason you can’t, such as a history of breast cancer, liver disease, or having a high risk for blood clots.

    Of course, every woman is different, so it’s important to talk to our providers about your options. If you’re currently taking phytoestrogen supplements, let our providers know. Our team can discuss the benefits and risks to help you determine whether to keep taking them. Our goal is to help you improve your health as a whole and feel your best.

    Find Treatment Solutions at HerKare

    Our professionals at HerKare are here to help you find personalized solutions to improve your health. We offer health care for women at every stage of life. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, visit one of our convenient clinic locations to discuss your options and find treatment solutions that work well for you. Make an appointment today to get started!

    Aesthetic Treatments for Dark Spots

    Aesthetic Treatments for Dark Spots

    Many people develop dark spots on their skin with age. These spots can appear practically anywhere, including on areas like the face, neck, chest, and hands. If you have dark spots on your skin, the good news is that there are many aesthetic treatments available to help. These treatments can help reduce the appearance of dark spots on your skin and can also help with other age-related skin concerns.

    Aesthetic Treatments can Help with Dark Spots

    woman on boat wearing hat after she received aesthetic treatments for dark spots on her skin

    Dark spots on the skin are commonly due to sun exposure, but aesthetic treatments can help reduce the appearance of dark spots.

    Aesthetic treatments are non-invasive cosmetic procedures that can help you enhance your appearance. When it comes to dark spots on your skin, there are several skin rejuvenating treatments that may help brighten the area and even out your complexion. Some common treatment options for dark spots include:

    • Medical-grade chemical peels
    • PRX treatment
    • Laser treatments
    • Radiofrequency microneedling

    Each of these treatment options can help improve the look of dark spots on your skin. These treatments all work a little differently and come with their own pros and cons. Our team can discuss your desired results and offer recommendations on whether and which treatment may work best for you. We may look at many different factors to help you determine which aesthetic treatments are right for you, including your current skin concerns, medical history, and lifestyle.

    What Causes Dark Spots on the Skin?

    Before we get into the specifics of the aesthetic treatments we offer, first let’s talk about what dark spots are. Dark spots are a form of hyperpigmentation on the skin. They also go by many other names, like age spots, liver spots, and sun spots.

    Dark spots are typically harmless (though they can sometimes look like skin cancer), but they do affect many people’s self-esteem. Many feel that hyperpigmentation areas, especially on the face, décolleté, and hands, detract from their appearance or make them look older. Therefore, many people look for aesthetic treatments to help minimize the look of dark spots.

    Hyperpigmentation occurs when you have excess melanin deposits in one area of your skin. Melanin is what gives your skin its color and is produced by special skin cells called melanocytes. However, some things can cause the melanocytes to produce more melanin than normal, which can lead to dark spots on your skin.

    Two common causes of hyperpigmentation are sun damage and inflammation. Both of these can increase melanin production, which can lead to dark spots. Frequent sun exposure can increase your risk for developing sun spots, especially as we age, as sun damage accumulates over time. Also, inflammation such as from skin injuries can lead to hyperpigmentation as well.

    While hyperpigmentation isn’t always preventable, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk for developing dark spots on your skin, such as:

    • Avoid sun exposure
    • Wear sun-protective clothing
    • Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30
    • Avoid picking your skin after an injury or blemish, as it can promote further inflammation

    Types of Aesthetic Treatments that May Lighten Hyperpigmentation

    If you do develop dark spots on your skin, know that there are treatments available. As a women’s health clinic, we offer several medical-grade aesthetic treatments to help you address concerns like hyperpigmentation as well as other issues like wrinkles and fine lines. Some of the treatments we offer that may help with dark spots on your skin include:

    Jan Marini Skin Research Chemical Peel Aesthetic Treatments

    Chemical peels are a common aesthetic treatment option that can help rejuvenate the skin and address many concerns, including dark spots. The medical-grade chemical peels from Jan Marini Skin Research have been used to treat many types of hyperpigmentation and sun damage.

    The Refine peel is good for overall skin rejuvenation and may help with mild hyperpigmentation. For more severe hyperpigmentation, the Transform peel may be the better option, as it is the more aggressive option. These chemical peels help promote skin cell turnover to reduce the appearance of sun damage, hyperpigmentation, photodamage, as well as things like fine lines and scarring.

    These two-step peels use mild acids to deeply exfoliate the skin. This helps your skin get rid of dead skin cells and bring newer, fresher skin cells to the surface, which can also help brighten hyperpigmentation areas and even out your complexion. The second step is a leave-on treatment with retinol, anti-aging peptides, and antioxidants, all formulated to help with healing.

    Jan Marini chemical peels can be used on the face, décolleté, and hands to reduce dark spots. Typically, treatment involves a series of three peels over a 12-week period. Many start seeing results after just one peel. Talk to our providers about which peels and how many aesthetic treatments you will need for your desired results.

    Cynosure Laser Aesthetic Treatments

    Cynosure is a type of laser therapy our clinics offer. Lasers are a powerful tool for rejuvenating the skin and treating unwanted dark spots. Cynosure laser treatments are quite effective at reducing the look of dark spots and sun damage.

    These aesthetic treatments use laser technology to target hyperpigmented cells in the skin. The laser energy then transforms into heat to destroy the unwanted cells. This helps resurface the outer layers of the skin in the area and also target cells deeper in the skin to reduce the look of dark spots and other concerns like wrinkles and visible veins.

    Our team can use Cynosure laser treatments in a variety of areas, including the face, neck, chest, hands, arms, and legs. The number of treatments needed varies for each person. Some people may only need a few, while others may need several. Talk to our providers to see if Cynosure laser aesthetic treatments are right for you and what treatments may look like based on your personal circumstances.

    Vivace Radiofrequency Microneedling

    Another common option is Vivace RF microneedling. This treatment combines two powerful skin rejuvenation methods: microneedling and radiofrequency treatments. This treatment can help tighten the skin and reduce the look of hyperpigmentation spots.

    Vivace radiofrequency microneedling helps with skin resurfacing by creating controlled micro-damages in the skin to promote the healing and skin regeneration process. The microneedles make small channels in your skin while the radiofrequency treatment creates heat energy in the deep layers of your skin to increase collagen production and skin cell turnover.

    Like other aesthetic treatments, this treatment option is personalized to you. While typically treatment involves three sessions with four to six weeks in between treatments, you may need more or fewer treatments or different times in between treatments. Our team can discuss the specifics of this treatment option based on your individual situation.

    HerKare – Quality Health Care for Women

    When you need top quality care, choose our team at HerKare. We are a women’s health clinic offering solutions for health care and aesthetic treatments. Our team is here to help you look and feel your best at every stage of life. Make an appointment today at one of our convenient locations to learn how we can help you improve your health and appearance!

    Women’s Health Care: What to Know About Hepatitis C

    Women’s Health Care: What to Know About Hepatitis C

    May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, so talk to our women’s health care providers about preventing and treating hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a common form of hepatitis and there is currently no vaccine to prevent it. In this article, we’ll discuss what hepatitis C is and what women should know about this common but serious infection.

    Talk to Our Women’s Health Care Providers about Hepatitis C for Hepatitis Awareness Month

    woman smiling with two children after talking to our women's health care providers

    Talk to our women’s health care providers about hepatitis C and what you can do to protect yourself.

    One of the best ways to observe Hepatitis Awareness Month is to talk to our doctors about this disease. Ask our women’s health care professionals whether you should get tested for hepatitis C and how to prevent it. An estimated 40% of people with hepatitis C don’t know they have it and don’t know they should get tested. Knowing more about hepatitis can help you avoid infection, notice the signs of infection, and also seek early treatment if you think you may be infected. Make an appointment at one of our clinics and let’s talk about hepatitis and how to protect yourself.

    What is Hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis C, sometimes called hep C for short, is a type of viral infection from the hepatitis C virus. It primarily affects the liver, which is responsible for many things in your body, including removing toxins from the blood and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The problem with hepatitis C is that it can cause damage to the liver over time.

    Hepatitis C infections can be acute or chronic. An acute infection is short-term and your body’s immune system may be able to fight it off. However, more than half of people experience a chronic infection after being exposed to hepatitis C virus. Chronic hepatitis C is a long-term infection that can lead to many serious complications including scarring on the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure, and liver cancer. Today, there are many treatments available that, if used early, can help reduce these risks to your liver.

    Symptoms of Hepatitis C

    Hepatitis C often causes no symptoms. For some, symptoms only appear decades after infection due to serious liver damage. However, there are some symptoms you can keep an eye out for that may indicate a hepatitis C infection. Symptoms of hepatitis C infection include:

    • Fatigue
    • Abdominal pain
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Lack of appetite
    • Jaundice (yellow eyes or skin)
    • Bruising or bleeding
    • Dark urine
    • Clay-colored stools

    If you notice these symptoms, talk to our women’s health care providers to identify underlying causes. It may help your doctor detect hepatitis C for early treatment.

    How Does Hep C Spread?

    How do you get hepatitis C? Hepatitis C typically spreads through infected blood. One of the most common reasons for hep C transmission is sharing needles from illicit drug use. However, there are many other ways you might contract hepatitis C. For instance, getting tattoos or piercings using unsanitary needles, working in healthcare where you may be exposed to infected blood, or even sharing personal care items that may be contaminated with small amounts of blood, like razors or nail clippers.

    Hepatitis C can also spread through sex, especially if there may be blood present, like if you’re having sex during your period or if you experience tearing that causes light bleeding. This can create the blood-to-blood contact that can lead to a hepatitis C infection.

    Less commonly, women can also spread hepatitis C to their babies during pregnancy and birth. Some estimate that the risk is about 6% per pregnancy for mothers with hep C. The good news is that it is typically treatable in babies when caught early.

    Who is at Risk for Hepatitis C?

    Anyone can contract hepatitis C. However, there are some people who are more at risk for hep C than others. For instance, about 75% of people with chronic hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965, with Baby Boomers having five times the risk of people born in other generations.

    Here are some other factors that may increase your risk for hepatitis C:

    • Illegal drug use, particularly drugs you inject
    • People who work with blood and needles (like healthcare workers and tattoo artists)
    • Receiving an organ transplant or a blood transfusion before July 1992
    • Receiving clotting factor concentrates before 1997
    • People receiving dialysis

    If you have certain risk factors, our women’s health care providers may recommend testing for hepatitis C at least once, if not regularly. Our doctors can discuss your individual health circumstances with you to help you determine which screenings are right for you.

    Information Our Women’s Health Care Providers Want You to Know About Hepatitis C

    There are many things to know about hepatitis C. One of the best resources for information about hep C is your women’s health care provider at HerKare. However, we have some general information that we think is important for you to know for Hepatitis Awareness Month:

    Your Risk for Serious Hep C Complications Increases after Menopause

    One thing many people don’t realize about hepatitis C is that menopause can affect the infection. Estrogen may play a role in reducing how quickly the virus replicates, which can help protect you from liver damage and other issues associated with a chronic hep C infection. However, when estrogen levels drop during menopause, this can lead to a quick worsening of your condition. Hepatitis C typically progresses slower in pre-menopausal women than men, but once you reach menopause, you can see a rapid progression in symptoms and liver damage. So, consider scheduling a hep C test before you reach menopause. This way, you can seek treatment before your natural estrogen levels decrease.

    Hepatitis C Can Affect Hormonal Birth Control

    If you haven’t reached menopause yet, you might use hormonal birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, if you have hepatitis C, it may make your birth control less effective and increase the risk for failure. This is because the liver is responsible for breaking down hormonal birth control so your body can use it to prevent unwanted pregnancy. If you think you have hepatitis C, talk to our women’s health care providers about your birth control options.

    Hepatitis C is Treatable

    The good news is that hepatitis C is treatable. Treatment may look different for everyone, but it typically includes antiviral medications for 8 to 12 weeks. These medications can help stop the virus from multiplying and spreading to other cells in your liver. For many patients, these medications can actually make it so the virus isn’t detectable in their blood. Patients that reach this phase are considered cured from hepatitis C. Even for those that don’t become cured, these treatments can reduce and suppress the virus.

    What Tests Can Our Women’s Health Care Providers Run to Detect Hepatitis C?

    Many women actually discover that they have hepatitis C after normal blood work during an annual checkup. The blood work may show high levels of liver enzymes, which typically point to inflammation in the liver. If your doctor suspects this may be due to hepatitis C, they may recommend a hepatitis c virus antibody test to see if there are antibodies to the virus in your blood.

    Current recommendations are that all adults should be tested at least once in their lifetime. Experts also recommend pregnant women and people with higher risk factors should also be tested for hepatitis c. Talk to our women’s health care providers about your health and whether you need to get tested for hep C.

    Find Quality, Compassionate Women’s Health Care at HerKare Clinics

    For quality health care and a team that listens to you, visit one of our convenient HerKare locations. We are a women’s health clinic run by women for women to provide you with the health care services you need to feel your best. From preventative checkups to finding underlying causes of your symptoms, we are here to help you. Our providers offer quality care to help empower women regarding their health. Make an appointment today to experience the HerKare difference.

    Why Progesterone Replacement Therapy is Prescribed with Estrogen

    Why Progesterone Replacement Therapy is Prescribed with Estrogen

    If you’re considering hormone therapy for menopause symptoms, you may have noticed that most doctors recommend taking progesterone replacement therapy with estrogen unless you’ve had a hysterectomy. Many people wonder why this is. You might wonder if you really need progesterone to treat menopause symptoms like hot flashes. Let’s talk about why our providers frequently prescribe both progesterone and estrogen for women in menopause.

    What is Progesterone Replacement Therapy?

    woman in water happy after using progesterone replacement therapy and estrogen for menopause symptoms

    Progesterone replacement therapy may be an important part of your menopause care plan.

    Progesterone replacement therapy is just like any other hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in that it supplements and replaces natural levels of a hormone in your body. In this instance, the hormone is progesterone. Like other types of HRT, it comes in many forms and doses. For women who still have their uterus, progesterone is almost always prescribed with estrogen therapies.

    What Does Progesterone Do?

    Progesterone is a type of sex hormone in your body, like estrogen and testosterone. Many people refer to progesterone as the “pregnancy hormone,” as it’s important for making the uterus a good environment for a fertilized egg. It also does many other things during pregnancy, like helping your breasts get ready to produce breast milk.

    However, progesterone has many other functions in the body. Progesterone and estrogen work in tandem to regulate the menstrual cycle before menopause. Estrogen grows the uterine lining (the endometrium) and helps your body get ready for ovulation. Progesterone, on the other hand, helps prepare the uterus to receive a fertilized egg and, if you don’t become pregnant, levels drop and cause you to have your period.

    During menopause, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop and become more sporadic. This is what causes irregular periods and other symptoms associated with perimenopause. As you produce less and less, you stop having periods altogether and reach menopause.

    Progesterone Replacement Therapy Paired with Estrogen for Menopausal Women

    Fluctuating and declining hormone levels are the cause behind menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and sleep problems. These symptoms can range from bothersome to debilitating for some women. If you experience symptoms that interfere with everyday life, our hormone doctor may recommend starting a hormone replacement therapy regimen to help reduce your symptoms. If you still have your uterus, you will likely need to take both progesterone and estrogen for menopause treatment. This is also known as combination hormone replacement therapy.

    Why You Need Both Estrogen and Progesterone if You Still Have Your Uterus

    You might be wondering why progesterone replacement therapy is so important if you still have your uterus. The reason is that estrogen alone, while effective for treating many menopause symptoms, can cause the lining of your uterus to become too thick. Before menopause, the uterine lining thickens and then your body sheds it during your period, but this process stops after your last period. The problem is, if the uterine lining becomes too thick, it can increase the risk for endometrial cancer. Therefore, estrogen-only therapy may increase your risk for uterine cancer.

    Progesterone comes to the rescue here because it stops the thickening process. This hormone keeps estrogen in balance to reduce the uterine cancer risks associated with estrogen replacement therapy. Therefore, if you still have a uterus, progesterone replacement therapy is essential for reducing risks associated with estrogen-only treatments.

    Are There Risks of Estrogen and Progesterone Replacement Therapy?

    Like any other medication or treatment, there are risks to taking combination hormone replacement therapy. Specifically, researchers believe that higher progesterone levels can increase the risk for breast cancer. Data from the Women’s Health Initiative suggest that combining progesterone and estrogen can increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer by about one-tenth of a percent per year.

    While the risk is relatively low, it’s important to weigh this drawback against the potential benefits of combination therapy. Also, many experts suggest not taking progesterone unless needed to reduce risks of uterine cancer from estrogen-only treatments. Though, it’s important to understand that hormone replacement therapy is a really individualized treatment. There is no one approach that fits all women. Therefore, you should talk about your individual circumstances with our providers.

    Is Progesterone Replacement Therapy Ever Prescribed On Its Own?

    We’ve talked a lot about combining estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms. However, you might be wondering if progesterone is ever used on its own for menopause. This isn’t a very common treatment plan because most menopause symptoms are due to low estrogen levels. However, some studies have found that progesterone alone can help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and other common symptoms of menopause. Still, estrogen replacement therapy is currently the most effective option for treating these symptoms for menopausal women, which makes it the go-to treatment solution.

    Who Doesn’t Need Progesterone Replacement Therapy for Menopause Symptoms?

    Not everyone needs to take progesterone with estrogen for hormone replacement therapy. In fact, estrogen alone comes with fewer long-term risks for women who do not have a uterus. In these cases, our providers may recommend estrogen-only therapy because there is no need to worry about the increased risk for endometrial cancer. As we mentioned, the risk of adding progesterone to your treatment regimen is a slightly increased risk for breast cancer. Therefore, if you have had a hysterectomy, typically we recommend estrogen-only options to reduce this risk.

    How Does Combination Estrogen and Progesterone Replacement Therapy Work?

    If your hormone doctor prescribes combination hormone replacement therapy, this means you will take both estrogen and progesterone to help treat your menopause symptoms. There are a couple of different ways to go about this. One may work better for you than the other. Our doctors can discuss your individual needs and find a treatment plan that works best for you. However, here are some things to know about continuous and cyclical menopausal hormone therapy:

    Continuous Combination Hormone Replacement Therapy

    Continuous combination hormone therapy means you take both estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy for treatment. This option is where you take both bioidentical hormones every day to reduce symptoms and health risks during menopause. This often makes treatment simpler and easier to use for many people, as the treatment is the same each day. Continuous HRT also reduces or eliminates vaginal bleeding, which can occur with cyclical hormone therapy.

    Cyclical HRT

    Cyclical hormone therapy looks a little different for everyone, and there are many ways to go about this treatment plan. For instance, some women take estrogen only for a certain period of time, usually about 14 days, then use progesterone and estrogen for about 11 days. For the remaining three to five days, they do not take hormones. The idea is to mimic hormone levels during an average menstrual cycle. However, other women take estrogen every day for several months (usually about three months) and then take progesterone replacement therapy with estrogen for about two weeks or so after that time. Your hormone doctor can help you determine if this type of hormone replacement therapy is right for you.

    One of the benefits of cyclical HRT is that it can reduce your exposure to progesterone over time, which may help offset some of the risks associated with progesterone replacement therapy. However, some of the disadvantages include a more complicated treatment plan to remember and maintain, as well as possible menstrual-like bleeding on the days you take progesterone and estrogen together. So, it’s important to discuss the options with our providers and find the option that works best for you.

    Get Individualized Care from an Experienced Hormone Doctor at HerKare Women’s Clinics

    Our professionals at HerKare are here to help you improve your health and quality of life through personalized treatment plans. We understand the need for individualized care tailored to you and your lifestyle. Our providers work hard to find underlying causes of your symptoms and identify treatment solutions that work well for you. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, know that our team is here to help you find relief. Book an appointment today at one of our convenient locations to talk to our doctors about your symptoms and treatment options!