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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!

    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.

    Do Menopause Symptoms Ever Go Away?

    Do Menopause Symptoms Ever Go Away?

    Menopause is a natural phase of life for women. However, it can come with many changes, including unwanted symptoms that affect daily life. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, it’s important to understand that there are many ways our women’s health care  providers can help, from providing treatments and suggesting lifestyle changes. Our team is also here to answer all your questions, so you are prepared and empowered over your own health. One common question you may have is whether menopause symptoms ever go away. The simple answer is yes. However, keep in mind that menopause is anything but simple. We’ll discuss how long menopause symptoms last, what factors affect symptom duration, and other complexities of menopause in this article.

    women talking at table after discussing menopause symptoms with our women's health care providers

    Talk to our women’s health care providers about what to expect from menopause.

    Ask Your Women’s Health Care About What to Expect During Menopause

    One of your best resources during menopause is your women’s health care provider. Our team can answer your questions and help you understand what to expect during menopause. Every woman is different, but there are some common experiences many women have during menopause that we can discuss and strategize for based on your individual circumstances.

    Understanding the Phases of Menopause

    It’s important for women to understand the different phases of menopause. While many people use the term “menopause” as a catch all for symptoms and health conditions related to low hormone levels as we reach middle age, there are actually three distinct phases in the transition from pre-menopause to post-menopause. They are:

    • Perimenopause
    • Menopause
    • Postmenopause

    Perimenopause is the period leading up to your last period. During this time, hormones like estrogen and progesterone start to decline and fluctuate. With these changing hormone levels, you may experience several symptoms associated with menopause. You may also experience irregular periods because of changing hormone levels. This is the transition into menopause. On average, perimenopause starts at age 47 and lasts approximately 4 years before reaching the next phase. However, every woman is different, and some may have longer or shorter timelines for perimenopause. You can also start perimenopause earlier or later.

    Menopause is the next phase in the transition. This is actually a point in time, rather than a time span like perimenopause. Menopause is when you reach the 12-month mark from your last period. Immediately after reaching this part of the phase, you are considered postmenopausal.

    Postmenopause is the time that comes after you haven’t had a period for 12 months and lasts the rest of your life. During early postmenopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels may keep declining and some women continue to experience symptoms during postmenopause. However, typically symptoms do typically go away at some point during postmenopause.

    Common Menopause Symptoms

    Low estrogen and progesterone levels during the menopause transition can cause many different symptoms. In fact, an estimated 80% of women experience some menopause symptoms. Common symptoms you may experience include:

    • Hot flashes
    • Night sweats
    • Mood changes like anxiety and depression
    • Insomnia
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Brain fog
    • Weight gain

    Many women will see symptoms during perimenopause in the three to five years or so before reaching the menopause stage. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, sometimes even interfering with day-to-day life. Each person is different, so you may experience different symptoms or different levels of severity compared to others. If you’re experiencing symptoms of menopause, talk to our women’s health care providers about options for relief.

    How Our Women’s Health Care Providers Help with Menopause Symptoms

    The good news is, you don’t have to suffer with your menopause symptoms. There are many ways our women’s health care team can help you address your symptoms. For some women, simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in alleviating menopause symptoms. For example, eating a healthy diet, taking part in exercise, and reducing stress levels can all help with your symptoms.

    However, in many cases you may need menopause treatment with hormones to relieve your symptoms. As symptoms are typically due to low and imbalanced hormone levels, hormone replacement therapy is a common treatment option that can reduce or eliminate your symptoms. We generally recommend taking the lowest dose of estrogen (and progesterone if you still have your uterus) that helps your symptoms. Our providers can help you determine if this treatment solution is right for you.

    How Long Do Menopause Symptoms Last?

    If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, you might wonder if they ever go away. The good news is, menopause symptoms do typically fade away with time. While there is no straightforward answer for how long menopause symptoms last, there are studies that show the average duration to expect.

    In the past, many women’s health care providers believed that symptoms like hot flashes usually disappeared within six to 24 months. However, more recent research suggests that the timeline for menopause symptoms is longer than this. One study from 2015 looked at how long vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) lasted for menopausal women. The researchers found that the average duration of hot flashes and night sweats was 7.4 years, with 4.5 of those years occurring during postmenopause after the last period. However, it’s important to note that some women have symptoms for a shorter amount of time and others a longer amount of time. For instance, some of the women in the 13 year follow up still had symptoms.

    The researchers in the study recommended that doctors advise women to expect symptoms for about 7 years because that was the average amount of time for the women in the study. However, there are health and lifestyle factors that may affect how long you experience menopause symptoms.

    Factors That Affect the Length of Menopause Symptoms

    The 2015 study also found that certain factors were associated with longer timelines for menopause symptoms. For instance, they found that women whose symptoms started earlier, such as when they were premenopausal, tended to experience hot flashes for longer, with an average time of 11.8 years total and 9.4 years after their last period. By contrast, women who only experienced symptoms after their last period tended to only have them for an average of three and a half years. They also found that African American women tended to experience symptoms longer than white women.

    Some other factors that seemed to be linked to having menopause symptoms for longer included being overweight, smoking, having high stress levels, and having anxiety or depressive symptoms.

    Each woman has her own “schedule” for menopause and its symptoms. However, genetics also seems to play a role. Specifically, typically your menopause transition will look similar to your mother’s and grandmother’s for age and timeline. Therefore, there are many things that can affect how long you experience menopause symptoms. Our women’s health care providers can help you look at many different factors and make a plan for how to manage your symptoms now and in the future.

    Discuss Strategies for Managing Menopause With Our Women’s Health Care Providers

    Considering that menopause symptoms can last years, it’s helpful to discuss your symptoms with our health care providers. As we mentioned, there are many options for relieving your symptoms. Our team can create personalized treatment solutions based on your specific needs. We are your partners in improving your overall health and wellbeing, during every phase of life.

    Quality Women’s Health Care for Menopause at HerKare

    As a women’s health clinic owned and operated by women, we are here to empower you to live a healthier life. Our team at HerKare is here to help you create a roadmap for lifelong health. We offer a variety of women’s health care services, from birth control counseling to menopause treatments to help you feel your best at any age. Make an appointment today to discuss your symptoms and get quality, individualized care from our health care providers.

    Women’s Health Clinic: Ovarian Cysts After Menopause

    Women’s Health Clinic: Ovarian Cysts After Menopause

    If you have symptoms of an ovarian cyst after you reach menopause, you should schedule an appointment at our women’s health clinic. While these are often harmless, they can cause serious symptoms, complications, and may even point to cancer. In this article, we’re going to discuss ovarian cysts after menopause and some things you need to know to stay healthy.

    menopausal woman smiling after visiting her women's health clinic

    Your women’s health clinic can help you address your health if you have ovarian cysts after menopause.

    Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries. About 7% of women will experience an ovarian cyst in their lifetime. They come in many different forms. They are more common before menopause when the ovaries are more active. There are a couple of different functional ovarian cysts associated with the menstrual cycle for pre-menopausal women that often go away on their own and don’t cause any symptoms.

    However, after menopause, it’s less likely that you will experience ovarian cysts, and frequently these are different from the functional cysts you may have experienced in your pre-menopausal years. This is because the ovaries stop releasing eggs and produce less estrogen and progesterone, meaning they’re less active after menopause. Therefore, if you think you might have an ovarian cyst after menopause, it’s important to discuss it with one of our treatment providers.

    Seek Care from Our Women’s Health Clinic for Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

    While ovarian cysts are less common after menopause, they can still develop as long as you have your ovaries. Ovarian cysts can cause many different symptoms, including:

    • Dull ache in the lower back or pelvis
    • Aches in the thighs
    • Feeling pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvis
    • Bloating or swelling in the lower abdomen
    • Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis
    • Pain during sex
    • Difficulty emptying your bladder or bowels
    • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
    • Unexplained weight gain

    If you’re experiencing these common symptoms of ovarian cysts, it’s important to make an appointment with our women’s health care providers for diagnosis and treatment.

    In some cases, ovarian cysts can cause complications. For instance, they can increase the risk of ovarian torsion, which is where the ovary begins to twist and may cut off blood flow to the area. Ovarian cysts can also rupture, which can cause dangerous internal bleeding. Some symptoms you need immediate medical care for an ovarian cyst include:

    • Severe, sudden pain
    • Heavy vaginal bleeding
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Fever
    • Dizziness
    • Fainting

    Ovarian Cysts After Menopause: Important Information to Know

    If you’re a post-menopausal women, there are several things you should know about ovarian cysts after menopause. Of course, everyone is different, so it’s important to talk to the providers at our women’s health clinic about your specific circumstances. However, we have some general information to help you if you think you may have an ovarian cyst after menopause.

    Ovarian Cysts After Menopause May Increase Your Risk for Ovarian Cancer

    One important reason to seek treatment from our women’s health care providers if you suspect you have an ovarian cyst is that cysts are more likely to be cancerous if you experience them after menopause. While most ovarian cysts after menopause are benign, there is a higher risk for ovarian cancer as we age. Therefore, we recommend getting care if you think you might have an ovarian cyst. While a suspected ovarian cyst is no reason to panic, it is something you should take seriously and visit our women’s health clinic to help rule out malignant cysts.

    How Your Women’s Health Clinic Diagnoses Ovarian Cysts After Menopause

    If you think you have an ovarian cyst and you’ve already gone through menopause, there are several ways our providers may diagnose you. Understanding what to expect can help you feel more prepared and at ease before and during your appointment.

    Our women’s health care professionals may conduct a pelvic exam to look for signs of the cyst. Often, the doctor can feel the cyst during an exam, and it also allows them to examine the vagina, cervix, and uterus for signs of other causes of your symptoms.

    Another way your provider may diagnose an ovarian cyst is with imaging. This is frequently through ultrasound to look at the ovaries for signs of cysts.

    Our team may also recommend a blood test to look for higher levels of cancer antigen 125 (CA125), which could be a sign of ovarian cancer. However, keep in mind other conditions can also raise CA125, like pelvic infections, fibroids, and endometriosis.

    How Our Women’s Health Clinic Providers May Treat Ovarian Cysts

    After diagnosis, we can discuss different treatment options based on our findings. In many cases, we may recommend monitoring the cyst for changes. If the cyst is small and benign, we may not need to remove it or do anything further. These cysts often go away on their own. However, our women’s health clinic may recommend regular monitoring to see if the cyst changes in size or appearance.

    For larger cysts, cysts that cause you symptoms, or cysts that may be cancerous, our team may recommend surgically removing them. There are several approaches to this. One is to simply remove the cyst from the ovary. Another option is an oophorectomy, where the surgeon removes the affected ovary. In some cases, you may also need a hysterectomy.

    Conditions that May Increase Your Risk for Ovarian Cysts

    Ovarian cysts can happen to anyone. However, there are some things that can increase the risk of developing an ovarian cyst that you should be aware of. These include:

    • History of ovarian cysts (if you have had one before, you’re more likely to get another)
    • Hormonal imbalances
    • Severe pelvic infections
    • Endometriosis
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
    • Hypothyroidism

    If you experience these conditions, talk to our women’s health care providers about your risks for ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer, as well as what to do if you think you have an ovarian cyst.

    Types of Ovarian Cysts You May Experience After Menopause

    There are several types of ovarian cysts you can develop. We mentioned functional cysts in an earlier section, which are associated with your menstrual cycle before menopause. After menopause, ovarian cysts typically fall into one of three categories:

    • Dermoid Ovarian Cysts: Dermoid ovarian cysts are a sac of tissue on the ovaries. They often appear during your reproductive years but may get larger over time. These cysts are rarely cancerous and are usually made up of other types of cells, such as skin, teeth, or hair cells.
    • Cystadenoma Ovarian Cysts: These cysts are generally on the surface of the ovary and are filled with water-like fluid or mucus. They are typically benign but can be malignant.
    • Endometriomas Ovarian Cysts: Endometriomas are cysts caused by a growth of endometrial (uterine lining) cells on the ovaries. These are most common for women with endometriosis, which is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. Like other cysts, they can be cancerous but are generally benign.

    Convenient Health Care from Our Women’s Health Clinic

    Whether you’re experiencing symptoms of an ovarian cyst or want to discuss options for maintaining a healthy lifestyle after menopause, our professionals at HerKare are here to help. We are a women’s health clinic managed by women for women to help you address and improve your overall wellbeing. Our team offers quality, compassionate health care at every stage of life, pre-menopause to post-menopause. Schedule an appointment at one of our clinics today!

    Low Estrogen May Increase the Risk for Overactive Bladder

    Low Estrogen May Increase the Risk for Overactive Bladder

    Low estrogen levels during menopause can cause many different symptoms and health concerns. As you may know, declining estrogen is responsible for symptoms like hot flashes and mood changes during menopause. However, many people don’t realize that low estrogen during menopause can also lead to other issues like overactive bladder. Let’s discuss the link between estrogen and overactive bladder (OAB) and what you can do to help with OAB during menopause.

    woman doing yoga after treating overactive bladder from low estrogen

    Low estrogen might cause changes in your pelvic muscles and bladder that affect your everyday activities.

    Low Estrogen During Menopause Can Lead to Overactive Bladder

    Many people experience overactive bladder. However, overactive bladder is more common in women, and the risk for OAB increases as we approach middle age. This is also the time where our hormone levels begin to fluctuate, eventually leading to menopause.

    Studies suggest decreasing estrogen levels in menopause may be to blame for overactive bladder and urinary incontinence. Estrogen is an important hormone in your body that is responsible for many different functions. You can find estrogen receptors throughout the body, including in the bladder. Therefore, changes in estrogen levels during and after menopause may lead to overactive bladder symptoms.

    What is Overactive Bladder?

    Overactive bladder is a health condition an estimated 33 million Americans experience. This condition affects your bladder control and can cause unwanted symptoms that affect everyday life. Overactive bladder is a type of urinary incontinence and is also known as urgency incontinence. OAB is different from stress incontinence, which can cause you to leak urine when there’s extra pressure on your bladder, such as when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. Instead, overactive bladder generally means you experience frequent and urgent feeling that you need to pee, often at inconvenient times.

    Symptoms of Overactive Bladder

    Overactive bladder can cause many symptoms. You might have overactive bladder if you:

    • Experience sudden urges to urinate immediately
    • Can’t “hold it” until you can make it to the toilet
    • Experience urine leaks right after a sudden urge to urinate
    • Wake up at night frequently to pee
    • Urinate more than eight times in a 24-hour day

    As you can see, overactive bladder can be a disruptive condition that may affect your overall quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatments available.

    It’s important to understand that overactive bladder is not a normal part of aging. Our providers can help you find treatment solutions based on your needs and lifestyle, including increasing estrogen levels in your body if low estrogen is to blame for your OAB.

    How Does Low Estrogen Lead to Overactive Bladder?

    The link between overactive bladder and estrogen is complex. Researchers are still studying the exact cause. However, there are several potential explanations that may shed light on estrogen’s effects on the bladder.

    Low estrogen can cause many changes in the body, including weaker pelvic muscles and a thinner urethra lining. These changes may increase the risk for overactive bladder and poor bladder control after menopause.

    Low Estrogen Weakens the Pelvic Muscles

    The higher estrogen levels we have in our bodies before menopause may have a protective effect on the pelvic muscles. Estrogen can help keep the pelvic muscles strong before menopause. Strong pelvic muscles support the bladder and also assist with the ability to hold in your urine until you can make it to the bathroom.

    Low estrogen during and after menopause can cause pelvic muscles to become weaker, reducing bladder support and your ability to hold in your urine. In turn, this can cause overactive bladder symptoms, like frequent and strong urges to urinate or not being able to make it to the restroom in time.

    Low Estrogen May Thin the Lining of the Urethra

    Declining estrogen levels during menopause can also affect the lining of your urethra, which is the tube that connects your bladder to the outside of the body. The lining of the urethra is made up of muscle tissue that allows it to contract and expand. When you use the restroom, the lining relaxes while the bladder contracts to let the urine out of your bladder and into the toilet.

    However, low estrogen can cause this lining to become thinner and less elastic. This may also explain the connection between menopause and overactive bladder, as a thinner lining may make it more difficult to prevent urine leaks when you experience the urge to urinate.

    Other Explanations for the Link Between Estrogen Levels and Overactive Bladder

    There may also be other explanations for why low estrogen levels can increase the risk of overactive bladder. For instance, lower estrogen during menopause can lead to more frequent urinary tract infections, which is where a bacteria builds up in the urinary tract and causes an infection. UTIs can also cause inflammation and irritation throughout the urinary tract and bladder, which may cause some of the same symptoms as overactive bladder like frequency, urgency, and incontinence. However, without treatment, UTIs can lead to issues like permanent kidney damage or even sepsis. Therefore, your symptoms of OAB could actually be an infection that may turn life-threatening if left untreated. If you’re experiencing symptoms of overactive bladder, it’s important to seek help from one of our providers to rule out a UTI and get treatment.

    Another potential reason many women experience overactive bladder after menopause is due to increased pressure on the bladder. It’s common for women to gain weight around the time of menopause. Those extra pounds can also put added stress on the bladder and make it harder to control urges to urinate or hold in your urine until you can reach the restroom. Therefore, menopausal weight gain could also be part of the problem when it comes to overactive bladder.

    Women’s Hormone Care May Help with Overactive Bladder

    Because of the association between estrogen levels and overactive bladder, many researchers have been studying the effects of hormone therapy on overactive bladder. One 2020 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that vaginal estrogen may help relieve overactive bladder symptoms. The researchers believe this is due to a type of good bacteria called Lactobacillus.

    Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria found in the gut, vagina, and also in the bladder. Yet, low estrogen levels can reduce the amount of this good bacteria in your body. The study looked at the number of Lactobacillus bacteria in the bladder for women using estrogen replacement therapy. They found that those using vaginal estrogen had more of the bacteria in their bladder and also saw some improvements in their overactive bladder symptoms.

    Therefore, women’s hormone care may help with your overactive bladder symptoms. For example, it’s common to use vaginal estrogen to help strengthen the muscles and tissues in the pelvic area and urethra, which may work well for your overactive bladder.

    Other Treatments for Overactive Bladder

    There are also many other treatment options available for overactive bladder which may work well for you. When you discuss your symptoms with our team, we may recommend some of these treatments to help you improve bladder control and symptoms.

    For example, our providers may recommend lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight to reduce the pressure on the bladder. We may also recommend Kegel exercises, which can strengthen the pelvic muscles. Also, scheduled bathroom breaks, even if you don’t feel the urge to go, can help retrain your bladder to prevent those strong and sudden urges to urinate.

    Other treatment options include medications. Typically, the medications are designed to relax the bladder to help with the symptoms of urgency. These often come in pills or patches you use each day. However, some people also receive small doses of Botox in the bladder to help relax the muscles. Our providers can discuss personalized treatment options for you.

    Healthcare for Women at HerKare

    Our team at HerKare is dedicated to providing quality healthcare for women. We are a clinic owned and managed by women and are here to help you improve your health. Whether you need a hormone doctor for your menopause symptoms or need preventative well woman care, our providers listen, understand, and help you take care of your overall wellbeing. Make an appointment today at one of our convenient locations.

    Women’s Health Care: Gynecological Exams After Menopause

    Women’s Health Care: Gynecological Exams After Menopause

    For comprehensive women’s health care, women should get regular gynecological exams. Yet, many women do not get regular exams after menopause because they believe they no longer need them. We’re here to set the record straight and explain why you should continue to schedule gynecological exams and what to expect from these exams once you have reached menopause.

    Women’s Health Care After Menopause is Important

    mature woman reading wondering about what women's health care services she needs

    Gynecological exams after menopause are important, so talk to our women’s health care providers about your gynecological health.

    It’s a commonly held misconception that women no longer need gynecological exams or well woman checkups after menopause. Most experts recommend continuing annual gynecological exams after menopause (yes, even if you’ve had a hysterectomy). Gynecological exams are part of preventative women’s health care. Just as you should continue seeing your dentist for checkups, it’s also important to continue to visit your gynecologist for preventative care and treatment. Taking part in health care can help you stay healthy and feel your best as you age.

    Gynecological Exams are Essential for Women’s Health Care at Every Age

    Gynecological exams are important health exams for women. Most health experts recommend getting a gynecological exam at least once per year for women of all ages. Even after menopause, regular gynecological exams are important for getting the health screenings and care you need to continue to stay healthy and help with early detection of health conditions.

    What Does a Gynecological Exam Include?

    Our providers tailor gynecological services to you based on your medical history and other factors. However, generally a gynecological exam includes several different tests and exams rolled into one appointment.

    One common part of your annual gynecological exam is the pelvic exam. This is where our provider examines your genitals, vagina, and pelvic organs both externally and internally. This exam is to help the doctor determine the overall health of your pelvic organs, such as your:

    • Uterus
    • Vagina
    • Cervix
    • Fallopian tubes
    • Ovaries
    • Bladder
    • Rectum

    Typically our providers will also conduct a breast exam and may recommend mammograms. We also use the gynecological exam as an opportunity to talk about your overall health and take readings of your vital signs to look for any signs of potential illness. During this time, our women’s health care team also typically asks about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Your exam may also include several recommended health screenings, such as a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Therefore, a gynecological exam involves many different “pieces” to help address your health.

    Why Visit Your Women’s Health Clinic for Gynecological Exams after Menopause?

    You no longer have a period, so why continue to schedule gynecological exams after menopause? Well, these exams address much more than just menstrual or even reproductive health. According to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it’s important to continue to visit a gynecologist after menopause. Gynecological exams can help you address your health through regular health screenings and looking for underlying causes of symptoms you experience.

    Important Health Screenings During Gynecological Exams

    Scheduling regular gynecological exams at our women’s health clinic also helps you get the health screenings and preventative care you need. Screenings help assess your risk for certain health conditions and can also help with early detection and treatment. Many of the health screenings you receive during your gynecological exam look for signs of potentially serious or life-threatening conditions, which is another reason why experts recommend continuing gynecological care after menopause.

    In many cases, you will also need regular Pap tests even after menopause. Current recommendations are to get a Pap test at least every three years between the ages of 21 and 65. After 65, you may be able to stop getting tests if you have had three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests in the last ten years. Our women’s health care providers can help you determine if you can stop getting regular Pap tests based on your individual risks.

    Even if you no longer need a Pap test, you may still need regular pelvic exams. Regular pelvic exams can help find signs of issues with your pelvic organs. For instance, during a pelvic exam our doctor may look for signs of ovarian cysts, STIs, uterine fibroids, and cancer in your pelvic organs. Many experts recommend getting regular pelvic exams after menopause as part of preventative care.

    Depending on your individual circumstances, our providers may also recommend other health screenings during your gynecological exam. We offer personalized services and recommendations to help you address your health.

    Discuss Your Gynecological Symptoms with Our Women’s Health Care Providers

    Another reason to continue scheduling gynecological exams after menopause is to talk about your symptoms with our health professionals. According to one study published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal Menopause, over half of women experience gynecological symptoms after menopause. Yet, many don’t seek help for these issues.

    The study surveyed hundreds of post-menopausal women and found that 51% of them experienced symptoms such as itching, irritation, dryness, discharge, and odor. For 40% of those women, their symptoms caused emotional distress. Also, 33% said symptoms impacted their lifestyles. For those who were sexually active, 76% said symptoms interfered with their sex life. Despite these symptoms and effects, about one-third of the women hadn’t seen a gynecologist in two years. From the study, the researchers suggested getting regular gynecological exams and discussing any symptoms you experience.

    In many cases, our women’s health care providers can help treat the underlying causes of your symptoms to help you find relief. For example, many women experience bladder symptoms such as frequency, urgency, urinary incontinence, or even burning while urinating. Many of these symptoms can be tied to vaginal atrophy, where the walls of your vagina become thin and dry, which is common after menopause.

    Treating your vaginal atrophy can often help with not only your vaginal symptoms, but your bladder symptoms as well. This is just one example of how discussing your symptoms with our team can help you find treatment solutions personalized to you.

    Not only can symptoms interfere with your quality of life, but they can also be a sign of something more serious. For instance, bleeding after menopause can be a warning sign of anything from non-cancerous polyps to endometrial cancer. Talking to our providers about symptoms may help with early detection of serious health conditions.

    HerKare – Empowering Women Through Quality Women’s Health Care

    Getting quality health care is important at every age, including after menopause. Our team at HerKare provides you with quality care at every stage of life. We are here to help you take care of your overall health, whether you need preventative care or are experiencing worrying symptoms. We believe in empowering women by providing them with the personalized health care solutions they need to feel their best. Schedule a gynecological exam at one of our convenient locations or make an appointment for our other treatment services to learn how we can make a difference for you.