Women’s health is an important area to discuss because it helps a woman through the different stages in her life, as well as informing her about certain conditions and diseases that may occur. Educating women about life transitions is key to keeping a healthy, happy, and productive life. Below is a list of some of the conditions we treat at our clinic for women.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s ovaries. According to the Office on Women’s Health, approximately 1 out of 10 women experience PCOS sometime in their life. Some doctors describe PCOS as the “silent killer” because it cannot be diagnosed with just one test–so many women may not even realize they have PCOS.
PCOS has been linked to women having a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. It is important to seek early intervention to reduce your chance of other conditions.
Signs and symptoms of PCOS typically occur during late teenage years or early adulthood and may include:
- Irregular or no menstrual periods
- Hirsutism (excess hair growth)
- Hair loss
- Abdominal/pelvic pain
- Areas of dark skin on the back of the neck
Polycystic Ovaries is when a woman has a collection of little cysts surrounding the edges of her ovaries. Typically cysts do not cause any real issues (unless they are big), but they could indicate something else is wrong. Polycystic ovaries do not automatically mean that you have PCOS. In order for a woman to be diagnosed with PCOS, she needs to have abnormal menstrual cycles as well as signs of androgen excess (acne, hair loss, etc).
PCOS is an extremely common cause of infertility in women. Often, many women do not know they have PCOS and go undiagnosed—not knowing that PCOS is causing their infertility—until they seek treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 40%-50% of cases of infertility in the United States are due to an issue occurring in the woman. Infertility means that you are unable to conceive despite having regular, unprotected sex and have not been able to conceive after one year of trying. Age, smoking, alcohol, obesity, eating disorders, mental stress, and STIs can all contribute to infertility. There are many conditions that can cause infertility—but many women go undiagnosed. Some common causes of infertility include:
- Poor egg quality
- Overactive/underactive thyroid gland
- Chronic conditions/diseases
- Ovulation disorders
Getting a physical exam by your doctor, as well as functional medical testing can help determine why you may be experiencing infertility.
Menopause occurs in a woman’s life when she stops having menstrual cycles and her body goes through changes that no longer allow her to become pregnant because the ovaries stop the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menopause naturally happens to women around the age 45 to 55. When women go through menopause, she will commonly experience menopausal transition (perimenopause) which means that her periods will stop and start for a period of time. The only way for a woman to tell if she has gone through menopause is if she has not had a period for one year.
Many women tend to be afraid of menopause because it can develop uncomfortable symptoms; however, treatment options are readily available to help cope with them. Common symptoms of menopause include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal or urinary complications
- Mood swings/mood changes
- Changing feelings towards sex
In addition to seeking medical treatment to help painful symptoms, being active, eating healthy, quit smoking, and taking care of your gynecological health can help reduce symptoms as well.
Dysmenorrhea, also known as menstrual cramps, is a constant dull, throbbing sensation located in the lower abdomen. Menstrual cramps are very common in most women, and discomfort can range from annoying to debilitating. Menstrual cramps tend to go away as a woman gets older or after she has given birth.
Symptoms of menstrual cramps may include one or many of the following:
- Dull, throbbing or constant cramping pain in the lower abdomen
- Radiating pain that goes down the lower back into the thighs
- Loose stools
Menstrual cramps are a common occurrence in women. However, if your menstrual cramps disrupt your daily life for months or years at a time, seek treatment.
Endometriosis is a health disorder which occurs in women when cells from the uterus start to grow in other regions of the body leading to pain, irregular bleeding, and infertility. Endometriosis typically involves the ovaries, bowel, or the tissue lining in the pelvis. Symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Excessive bleeding
- Pain during bowel movements or urination
Endometriosis is sometimes mistaken for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ovarian cysts, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so it is important to talk to your doctor and seek treatment options.
Amenorrhea is known as the absence of menstrual periods in women. Amenorrhea may develop because of other complications including genetic conditions, ovary, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus conditions, weight loss, and infertility. Treating the underlying cause of amenorrhea typically resolves it.
The main symptoms of amenorrhea are that you do not experience menstrual periods. Other symptoms include:
- Milky nipple discharge
- Hair loss
- Vision changes
- Excessive facial hair
It is important to talk to your doctor and seek treatment options after you have missed at least three menstrual periods consecutively, or if you have never had a menstrual period over the age of 16.
Irregular Menstrual Cycles
An irregular menstrual cycle means that the interval between periods varies every month–making it difficult to determine when exactly your period will arrive. Sometimes they come every 28 days, sometimes every 20, and sometimes every 30 days. It is very common for women to experience irregular periods at some point in their life.
Causes of irregular periods range from something small to something significant that needs medical attention. Some of the most common causes of irregular periods include:
- Eating disorders
- Excessive weight gain or weight loss–being too thin or overweight can cause your menstrual cycle to become irregular or even disappear altogether.
- Stress or emotional problems
- Hormonal complications
- Issues with the pelvic organs
Sometimes, irregular periods or a stop of menstruation can be caused by a condition called “premature ovarian failure” which causes a woman to stop having her period before age 40. This condition can be caused by radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy, in the case of a woman with cancer.
Women typically have menstrual periods that last four to seven days. A woman’s period typically occurs every 28 days, but it can fluctuate anywhere from 21 days to 35 days.
Examples of abnormal menstruation are:
Amenorrhea – a condition in which a woman’s periods have stopped completely. The absence of a period for 90 days or more is considered abnormal unless a woman is pregnant, breastfeeding, or going through menopause. Menopause commonly starts when a woman is around the ages of 45 and 55. Transitioning into menopause can take from two to eight years.
Oligomenorrhea – is a condition in which a woman’s period occurs infrequently.
Dysmenorrhea – is a condition in which a woman’s menstrual period is painful accompanied by severe menstrual cramps.
Abnormal menstrual bleeding may occur in various abnormal menstrual conditions, including: a heavier menstrual flow; a period that lasts longer than seven days; or bleeding or spotting between periods, after sex, or after menopause.
Abnormal menstruation can stem from many different reasons including:
- Birth control pills
- Uterine polyps or fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Premature ovary failure
- Uterine cancer or cervical cancer
- Medical conditions (anemia, other bleeding disorders)
- Complications linked to pregnancy (miscarriage, atopic pregnancy)
If you have any questions regarding women’s medicine, we can help. Education is key to women’s health. Call our office today to schedule an examination.