Category Archives: Health FAQs

What Is Infertility?

What Is Infertility? And Other Infertility FAQ’s Answered

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Infertility is a widespread condition; millions of people experience it every day. In fact, in the United States alone, 6 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 experience infertility. This number doubles if you consider women who can get pregnant but are unable to carry the child to term. Understanding what infertility is and how it is treated is essential for any person or couple struggling to get pregnant.

Infertile Couples Have Trouble Getting Pregnant

Infertility happens when a person or couple has difficulty getting pregnant after having regular, unprotected sex over an extended period, typically a year, without the use of birth control or other measures to prevent pregnancy. The time frame applies to women 15 to 35 years of age. Women 35 or older may naturally have a harder time conceiving and may be treated for infertility after a shorter time, usually around six months.

Infertility also refers to women who become pregnant but are unable to carry a healthy baby to term. An example of this would be a woman who experiences multiple miscarriages.

Infertility FAQs

Infertility FAQsBelow are some frequently asked questions that people have about infertility causes, symptoms and treatments.

What Causes Infertility?

Infertility may be caused by one or many underlying issues. No one solution will guarantee a pregnancy. It usually takes patience and thorough investigative work to find solutions to the problem.

To get pregnant, four major processes need to happen. When something disrupts one of these four processes, it can cause difficulty or prevent the conception of a child.

The steps are:

  1. A woman’s ovaries must produce eggs in her reproductive system for pregnancy. If the ovaries are not producing healthy eggs, it can lead to infertility.
  2. A woman’s eggs must be fertilized by sperm from a male for pregnancy to happen. If there are not enough sperm or sperm healthy enough to reach the eggs, infertility may happen.
  3. There is a passageway in a woman’s body that must provide a clear path for sperm to travel through to make its way to the eggs. Additionally, eggs must be able to travel to the uterus. If anything is blocking these pathways, it can cause infertility.
  4. After an egg is fertilized, it must attach itself to the wall of the uterus. If this does not properly happen, infertility may result.

What Role Does Ovulation Play in Infertility?

Regular periods usually reflect ovulation. Ovulation happens when a healthy egg is sent to the fallopian tubes from the uterus, which is necessary for pregnancy. However, sometimes ovulation doesn’t happen with menstruation, and this is referred to as a disruption of ovarian function. Ovarian functions that are disrupted are the most common causes of infertility.

A woman who does not ovulate during her menstrual cycle has a condition known as anovulation.

This may be caused by:

  • Diminished ovarian reserve. This is a condition that happens when a woman has fewer eggs in her body than she should for her age.
  • Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. This condition happens when unhealthy weight loss or an obsession with exercise affects the ovulation processes. This condition may happen when a person is dealing with an eating disorder.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a condition that may be caused by too much testosterone in a woman’s body.
  • Issues with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These parts of the brain produce hormones that are associated with ovulation. When these hormones are not at the levels they should be or are out of balance, it can cause many problems in the ovulation process.

Is Infertility Caused Solely by a Woman’s Body?

Is Infertility Caused Solely by a Woman’s Body?A common myth is that women are solely responsible for infertility. The truth is, men are often part of, or the sole cause of, infertility. Many people are surprised to learn that in 35 percent of cases or more, men are part of the cause of infertility. In just under 10 percent of cases, it is solely caused by the male.

How Can a Man Contribute to Infertility?

There are many common reasons a man may contribute to infertility.

These reasons include:

  • Being overweight
  • Excessive or frequent alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Testosterone resulting from medicine
  • Illegal testosterone use to build muscles
  • Genetic factors
  • Certain medications
  • Exposing testicles to frequent heat
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Diabetes

When Should a Couple Consult a Professional Health Care Provider?

A person or couple should consult a healthcare provider after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse without becoming pregnant. However, if a woman is over 35, it is harder to get pregnant, and therefore, she should seek help sooner. The time frame is generally six months after not becoming pregnant. Failure to become pregnant can cause depression, anxiety, and guilt.

Are There any Reasons Someone Should Consult a Doctor Earlier Than a Year?

If you are not over the age of 35 and are having trouble conceiving, there are circumstances where you may want to consult a professional before a year of being unable to conceive.

If you are a woman, you may consult a doctor earlier if you:

  • Have experienced multiple miscarriages
  • Experience severe pain during your period
  • Experience frequent pain during sexual intercourse
  • Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past
  • Suspect you have an STI
  • Have acne or excessive body hair
  • Have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease

If you are a male, you may consult a doctor earlier than a year, if you:

  • Have dealt with infertility with other sexual partners
  • Have a sperm analysis that is abnormal
  • Experienced testicular trauma in the past
  • Have had or are being treated by chemotherapy
  • Have been diagnosed with an STI in the past
  • Suspect you have contracted an STI

How Is Someone Tested for Infertility?

Many tests can be done to identify the causes of infertility. Tests utilizing x-rays, ultrasound, and a process called hysterosalpingography all help doctors spot things in the reproductive system that may be causing trouble. Investigating a woman’s ovulation cycle is another tool to identify causes. Males will likely have their sperm tested to determine their health and quality of it.

Is Infertility Permanent?

Infertility does not mean the condition is permanent or that there is no solution. Many people become pregnant and go on to carry and deliver healthy children after being diagnosed as infertile.

Can Living a Less-Stressful Life Cure Infertility?

It is a common myth that most infertility can be cured simply by living a less stressful life. The truth is that the intense emotions that accompany infertility might be the cause of stress and not the other way around. While there may be some truth that stress can affect sperm and the production of healthy eggs, the idea that infertility can be treated by stress reduction alone is an unhelpful one. It often intensifies feelings of guilt and self-blame that people dealing with infertility may already be feeling.

How Does a Healthcare Professional Treat Infertility?

Because there are many different causes of infertility, every situation is unique. Some infertility treatments include surgery, medication, or a mixture of both.

A treatment called intrauterine insemination (IUI), more commonly known as artificial insemination, is often used. IUI is considered primarily for cases where the male may be the cause and cases where the cause is hard to pinpoint.

I’ve Heard About Assisted Reproductive Technology. What Is It?

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) refers to many different treatments. The ART most commonly known to the public is in-vitro fertilization. However, ART refers to any treatment of infertility where a woman’s eggs are dealt with outside her body. ART usually involves removing a healthy egg from a woman’s body in a laboratory setting and combining that egg with healthy sperm. Once the egg has been successfully fertilized, it can be returned to the woman’s body. In some cases, a couple elects to have another woman carry the baby, whereas the fertilized egg would be inserted into that woman’s uterus.

Can I Treat Infertility on My Own?

If you and a partner have gone over a year while engaging in a healthy sex life and have not become pregnant, it is likely time to consult a professional. It is estimated that 85 percent of couples become pregnant within the first year of trying, so the numbers suggest that after this amount of time, it may be time to investigate the situation further as medical intervention is likely needed.

Is It Possible to Be Infertile After I’ve Had a Child?

Many people do not realize that they can still deal with and need infertility treatment even after having a healthy child. This can happen because the factors that cause infertility can show up later in life, or there may be underlying causes that weren’t present during the first pregnancy.

Arizona Gynecology Consultants Treat Infertility

Arizona Gynecology Consultants Treat InfertilityIf you are experiencing infertility and want treatment from experts with the latest medical knowledge and technologies, contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants today. Our programs investigate your specific fertility needs and provide individualized treatments for anyone dealing with infertility. We’re here to help answer any additional questions you have about your personal symptoms nod possible treatments. Reach out to discuss your options. We’re here for you.

Urinary Incontinence

What You Need to Know About Urinary Incontinence

Let’s face it; some medical concerns are a bit harder to share than others. One concern that is often pushed under the rug is urinary incontinence. This complication can impact both men and women, and the possible triggers for this issue are numerous. What is most soothing is the fact that it can often be completely treatable or at the very least manageable.

What is urinary incontinence?

Simply put, it is the leaking of any urine that you are unable to control. It is hard to gather specific statistics because of an assumed level of reserve due to embarrassment; this can impact your medical situation and your emotional, psychological, and social life. It ultimately keeps a person from thoroughly enjoying their life. Millions of Americans are affected by this issue, so there is no reason to feel shame or embarrassment. The faster an individual finds an excellent treatment plan, the sooner they can return to regular life.

Understanding Risk for Incontinence

Understanding Risk for IncontinenceWhen it comes to the risk of developing urinary incontinence, the chances vary drastically. Some symptoms of UI can point to larger issues that may need to be seriously addressed, while others may be milder and more temporary. The good news is that for most, these risks can be resolved quickly, leading to an only temporary risk of developing urinary incontinence. Risks can include:

  • Pregnancy, the form of delivery, and number of children.
  • Post-menopause or instances where you may have a drop in your estrogen levels.
  • Prostate issues, especially for men.
  • Poor health, such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, or obesity.

What Are the Symptoms of UI?

The truth is that these symptoms can vary depending on the type of UI you may have. The basic concept is that there is a miscommunication between your brain and your bladder. Your bladder stores the urine, and the muscles in your lower pelvis are responsible for holding tight. When ready, your brain sends a signal to the bladder, the muscles contract, and urine is forced through the urethra. When it comes to dealing with urinary incontinence, it can impact a variety of these steps. There are four most common types of urinary incontinence.

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)

This result is from weak pelvic muscles. It is the stress caused by physical pressure versus mental stress. It is one of the most common instances of UI. The common symptoms include small amounts of urine escaping while exercising, walking, bending, lifting, sneezing, and coughing. These symptoms can range from mild, moderate to severe. How is UI treated? For this type, there is no medical specific treatment. Lifestyle changes may help, as well as utilizing Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic walls. With today’s advancement in technology, all you need is a small device and a smartphone to conveniently exercise your pelvic walls. This condition is usually caused by pregnancy or childbirth, menopause, hysterectomy, age, or obesity.

Overactive Bladder (OAB)

This is another common form of UI. This is also known as the “urgency” incontinence. Your body essentially gives you a little warning when it comes to needing to urinate. You could suddenly feel an urge due to shifting position, hearing running water, or even during sex.

What are the symptoms of UI?

In this case, your bladder tells you it needs to empty, even when it isn’t full. You can’t control or ignore the symptoms of this form of a UI. It can hit unexpectedly, leaving your life and daily activities interrupted, often without a moment’s notice. This impacts at least 30% of men and 40% of women in the U.S. alone. This can be caused by cystitis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the bladder. It can also be caused neurologically through multiple sclerosis, stroke, and Parkinson’s.  An enlarged prostate can also cause it.

Mixed SUI and OAB

This sounds exactly how it is. You’re impacted in part by both the most common issues of UI. You may “leak” a bit at times unexpectedly, following a good sneeze or even a laugh. You may also feel the sudden, undeniable urge to pee without a moment’s notice.

Overflow Incontinence

This is where your body makes more urine than it can hold, or your bladder may be full but for whatever reason can’t empty. This is rare in women and is most often found in men with prostate problems. This is typically created through a blockage or obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate, a tumor pressing onto the bladder, urinary stones, or constipation.

Total Incontinence

While less likely, certain individuals may have to deal with this form of UI. It can be caused by various factors, including anatomical defects from birth, a spinal cord injury that impacted the communication between the brain and the bladder, or a fistula. A fistula is a tube or channel that develops between the bladder and a nearby area, usually the vagina.

General Symptoms of Incontinence

Symptoms of IncontinenceThe good news is that not all these symptoms are long-term. Many are short-term and potentially treatable. There are some general symptoms, including vaginal infections, irritations, medication use, constipation, general mobility, and UTI (urinary tract infection) that are often common causes.

Temporary Symptoms of Incontinence

Sometimes, all fingers can point toward your diet when it comes to issues with UI. Different foods, drinks, and medicines can all affect your urinary continence. Drinks such as alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks can impact your body differently. This also includes artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, sugar, acid, even chocolate!

Potential Complications of UI

Dealing with a UI can impact many different facets of your life. You may also develop skin problems. This could include sores, rashes, and infections caused by the skin being wet or damp most of the time. This can lead to complications with any wound healing and can promote fungal infections. Prolapse is rare but still a risk to consider, especially if your UI goes untreated. This is when a part of the vagina, bladder, or urethra falls into the entrance of the vagina, typically due to an extremely weak pelvis wall. In an instance such as this, surgical intervention will be necessary.

When Should I See a Doctor?

The short answer is the sooner, the better! If you notice an increase in frequency that can’t be easily explained, such as a dramatic increase in water intake, it may be a sign of a larger concern. This especially becomes a concern when it starts to impact the overall quality of your life. If you find yourself restricting activities such as going out for dinner, having drinks with friends, enjoying outdoor adventures or sports, this is no good!

You shouldn’t have to limit your social interactions due to urinary concerns. Your quality of life should be your number one priority. There is no reason to suffer in silence, especially because there are numerous remedies to many different UI issues. You’ll also want to consider your age. The speed at which you may make it to and from the bathroom can vary with age, weight, and other mobility factors. You’ll want to be aware of additional risks of falling and other injuries when trying to race against a sometimes unpredictable clock. There is also the risk that your UI is a sign of a much larger issue. You’ll want to handle these issues early on before they lead to more serious complications down the line.

Urinary Incontinence Diagnosis

Wondering how UI is diagnosed? Many different methods can be used to determine if you have a UI and what form you may be experiencing. These methods vary, so it is best to try to explain your situation as well as possible to your medical professional. This may help put the focus on what is most likely impacting you.

Bladder Diary

This may seem a bit silly at first, but it can help pinpoint precisely what form of UI you may be dealing with. You’ll want to keep track of how much you drink to start. You may want to specially note if your intake has suddenly increased or decreased for whatever reason. You’ll also want to keep track of when urination occurs, as well as if you experienced any incontinence throughout the day. Even the smallest leak can interrupt your day, so keeping track of the small nuances can make a huge difference.

Physical Exam

Your doctor may not necessarily ask you about your bladder health. The largest stigma with UI is the feeling of embarrassment, but if you don’t share with your doctor, they will not be able to help you. When getting your physical exam, be sure to share your concerns with your doctor. Millions of Americans struggle with UI issues, so there is no reason to be shy. Upon your physical exam, your doctor can check for the strength of your vaginal walls, or for men, any risk of having an enlarged prostate.

Urinalysis

This will help determine if you have any signs of infection or abnormalities.

Blood

Simple blood work can rule out many potential issues, especially when it comes to kidney function, which can impact your urinary health.

Postvoid Residual (PVR) Measurements

This test can help determine how much urine is left in the bladder after urination. For those who suffer from an overactive bladder or one that tends to overflow, this could finally lead you and your medical professional in the right direction for treatment.

Pelvic Ultrasound

If a typical physical examination doesn’t provide enough information, a pelvic ultrasound may be the next best step. This creates an image of your pelvic area that can help pinpoint any abnormalities or inconsistencies that may not have been initially discovered.

Stress Test

This form of testing can include testing your body’s ability to react to sudden pressure.

Urodynamic

This test determines how much pressure your bladder and urethra can withstand.

Cystogram

This x-ray focuses explicitly on the bladder to check for any abnormalities or concerns that wouldn’t be found in a typical exam.

Treatments for Urinary Incontinence

How is UI treated? There are many different methods when it comes to treating UI. Many of these treatments will vary depending on the severity of your condition. These treatments can range from at-home activities to surgical intervention. Some of the most common forms of treatment include:

Bladder Training

This can involve a few different types of exercises. Most commonly, they are:

  • Delay-control urge—This is feeling the need to urinate but training your body to wait, even if it is only for short periods at first.
  • Double voiding—This is the process of urinating, waiting, and then urinating again.
  • Toilet timetable—Sometimes routine is key. This bladder training is structured so that you create specific times in which to use the bathroom, for example, every two hours. This makes a predictable routine for your body to follow.

Medications

Medicine is rarely used alone. It is often paired with other techniques or exercises to improve UI symptoms. Medicines often prescribed include:

  • Anticholinergics—This is a medicine that can be used to calm an overactive bladder.
  • Topical estrogen—This helps reinforce the tissues in the urethra and vaginal areas. It can also help to lessen symptoms caused by UI.
  • Imipramine—A tricyclic Dealing with complications in such an intimate part of your body can lead to depression, anxiety, and a desire to pull away from certain social interactions. It is important to allow your medical professional in so that they can try to alleviate some of these issues.

You May Have Urinary Incontinence, But So What?

Talking to doctor about Urinary IncontinenceMillions of Americans deal with some form of UI every day. This number is hard to measure due to the feeling of embarrassment that stops many from sharing their experience. The truth of the matter is that many people deal with various forms this condition may present itself in. Whether you feel you go to the bathroom too much, too little, or just too unexpectedly, there are various exercises and treatments that could help alleviate your symptoms. What matters most is your ability to be open and honest with your health care professional. You may feel you are alone, but in fact, you are with a great majority of people who experience similar issues. Break the silence and give yourself the opportunity to truly live life to its fullest. You should never feel chained to the restroom.

Life is too short to let UI stop you from living each day to the max.

 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published August 7, 2017 and was updated May 27, 2021.

What is Menopause

What Is Menopause?

Menopause is a gradual biological process that eventually leads to the cessation of menstrual periods. Once a woman becomes menopausal, ovarian functions cease, and she will no longer be able to have children. Signs of menopause may vary among different women, especially regarding menstruation changes; a doctor will diagnose a woman with menopause after she has gone a full 12 months without experiencing a menstrual period. Going through menopause can be an incredibly emotional experience, and the loss of the ability to have children can be devastating, especially for a woman who has never had children and who experienced menopause earlier than usual. However, several effective treatments are available to help manage menopause symptoms, from simple adjustments to lifestyle changes to hormone therapy.

Menopause Age

Excluding external causes, menopause typically results from the natural decline of a woman’s reproductive hormones as she ages. Menopause generally occurs in the early 50s, but some women can experience it as young as the 30s or as old as the 60s. In most cases, as a female nears her late 30s, her ovaries will make lower amounts of the hormones progesterone and estrogen, the two primary hormones responsible for regulating menstruation and for releasing eggs during ovulation, and fertility declines. After reaching her 40s, she will experience irregular periods that become shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, and occur more or less frequently. Then, usually around the age of 51, her ovaries will stop releasing eggs, and she will no longer experience periods.

Signs of Menopause

Menopause generally includes three stages, perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.

First Stage: Perimenopause

Perimenopause can last for quite a long time and generally entails symptoms that prepare the woman’s body for menopause. Perimenopause lasts for about four to five years or until menopause occurs, which is when the ovaries stop releasing eggs altogether.

During the years between the onset of perimenopause and menopause itself, women generally experience:

  • Low estrogen levels
  • Irregular periods
  • Worsened premenstrual symptoms
  • Mood changes
  • Headaches
  • Slowed metabolism and weight gain
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Loss of fullness in breasts
  • Dry skin and hair loss
  • Hot flashes, accompanied by sweating or a flushed face
  • Chills
  • Decreased sexual interest
  • Fatigue, sleep problems, and night sweats
  • Aches and pains in joints and muscles
  • Urinary incontinence
Skipping periods during this stage is expected and common. Sometimes, a woman may skip a menstrual period one month only to experience it the following month or skip several months in a row and then return to a monthly cycle for a few months. Menstrual periods during perimenopause occur on shorter cycles, meaning they come closer together.

Second Stage: Menopause

The full onset of menopause refers to the cessation of menstrual cycles for one full year. During this time, women may experience a wide range of possible effects, and may develop other medical conditions as a result. For example, some women develop osteoporosis or heart disease during menopause. Doctors can provide customized treatment to individual patients to address their unique symptoms.

A frequently asked question by women close to menopause age is: Can you get pregnant during menopause? The answer is yes; even though periods are irregular, it is still possible to become pregnant. If you have experienced a skipped period but are unsure if you have entered menopause, you should take a pregnancy test.

Final Stage: Post-Menopause

The term “postmenopausal” simply refers to women who have already reached menopause. Every woman will experience menopause and the postmenopausal stage differently.

Hormonal imbalances can lead to the appearance of more body hair in some women, as testosterone production continues while estrogen production diminishes. Some women experience weight fluctuations and changes in skin texture.

External Causes of Menopause

External Causes of Menopause

Although every woman will inevitably experience menopause due to declining hormones, some women experience it at earlier ages due to external influences. Some medical conditions and diseases may require surgeries that cause menopause to begin very soon thereafter. Women who experience menopause in this manner often report more significant symptoms than women who experience menopause naturally.

Oophorectomy

Some women will experience menopause early due to problems with the ovaries. If a woman develops ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer, her doctor may recommend surgical removal of the ovaries, which will then spur the onset of menopausal symptoms. Typical menopause entails a full year of cessation of ovarian function, so surgical removal of the ovaries will lead to menopause. Symptoms may be severe because these hormonal changes occur abruptly instead of increasing gradually over several years as they would under normal circumstances.

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes a woman’s uterus; it may be performed due to fibroids, cancer, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or uterine prolapse. A hysterectomy can involve the removal of the ovaries and can include the removal of the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and the top portion of the vagina. Only removing the ovaries will induce immediate menopause, but a hysterectomy without removal of the ovaries can still cause women to experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes after surgery. These symptoms are typically only temporary and become less severe as the patient recovers.

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy

Women who develop some forms of cancer and undergo radiation treatment and chemotherapy may also experience menopause sooner than expected. Cancer therapies can induce menopause symptoms during or shortly after receiving treatment, but some women do not report experiencing such symptoms for quite a long time after completing cancer treatment. The impact on menstruation and fertility may not be permanent, so it is recommended to continue using birth control methods. Depending on the cancer and the treatments’ location, an ovulating woman can experience menopause due to interference from these treatments. Radiation therapy should only affect ovarian function if the radiation is directly targeted to the ovaries, while radiation targeted to the other parts of the body does not affect menopause.

Primary Ovarian Insufficiency

About 1 percent of all women experience premature ovarian failure—or ovarian failure before 40. This occurs when the ovaries fail to produce normal amounts of reproductive hormones, referred to as primary ovarian insufficiency. Doctors cannot predict when this will occur and do not know for certain why it happens; many researchers suspect genetic links and autoimmune diseases as contributing factors. In these cases, hormone therapy is recommended to protect the brain, heart, and skeletal system, at least until the woman reaches the natural menopause age.

Medical Complications

The loss of estrogen that results during menopause is associated with various health problems that increase in prevalence as women age, including decreased skin elasticity, reduced muscle strength and tone, a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and vision problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration. The following medical complications are most common in postmenopausal women: cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, urinary issues, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the number one leading cause of death among women, and the decline in estrogen women experience during menopause directly correlates with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Estrogen has a protective influence on the artery wall’s inner layer by helping the blood vessels stay flexible, so they can relax and expand when necessary to accommodate blood flow. Along with the reduced estrogen, other changes occur later in life that can affect postmenopausal women’s heart health, including increases in blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides, a certain form of fat in the blood. Eating a healthy diet full of nutritious foods, keeping a regular exercise routine, and maintaining a normal weight is essential for reducing cardiovascular disease risk during menopause.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a progressive medical condition that causes bones to weaken and become brittle, increasing their vulnerability to fractures. Women comprise 80% of osteoporosis patients and are four times as likely to develop this disease as men due to thinner, lighter bones and longer life expectancy. Along with its function in the reproductive system, estrogen supports the strength and density of bone mass by inhibiting the process of bone resorption. Throughout the first few years of menopause, decreased estrogen levels cause women to rapidly lose bone density, heightening the risk of developing this condition. Postmenopausal women suffering from osteoporosis are particularly susceptible to fractures in the wrists, hips, and spine.

Urinary Issues

The loss of elasticity in the vagina tissues and urethra may lead to several urinary system issues. Typically, this includes the sudden, frequent, strong need to urinate, followed by incontinence. Incontinence occurs in two types, urge incontinence and stress incontinence. Urge incontinence is losing urine after experiencing this sudden need to urinate. In contrast, stress incontinence involves losing urine due to laughing, coughing, sneezing, lifting, or other motions that place stress on the bladder. Additionally, urinary tract infections may occur more frequently. Treatment of incontinence includes Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor, topical estrogen applied to the vagina, and hormone therapy.

Sexual Dysfunction

A combination of vaginal dryness due to reduced moisture production and loss of elasticity in vaginal tissue may result in discomfort, pain, and slight bleeding during intercourse. These adverse side effects make it difficult for many postmenopausal women to become aroused as easily as they did in the past, causing a significant loss in libido or even a total lack of sex drive. Lower estrogen also causes less blood to flow to the vulva, clitoris, and vagina, and these decreased sensations may also reduce the libido. Water-based lubricants and moisturizers can alleviate vaginal dryness in many cases, but when this isn’t enough, local vaginal estrogen treatment can be recommended in the form of a vaginal tablet, cream, or ring.

Weight Gain

Due to the hormonal changes that occur, many women gain weight quickly during menopause, especially in the abdomen. Simultaneously, as a woman ages, she loses muscle mass while gaining fat, slowing down her metabolism. This makes it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight, even with the same eating and exercise habits maintained before the onset of menopause. Genetic factors can also increase vulnerability to postmenopausal weight gain. Excess weight, particularly in the abdomen, heightens the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, breathing problems, Type 2 diabetes, and several forms of cancer, such as colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. Combating this weight gain requires exercise, healthy eating habits, limiting sugary foods, and avoiding alcohol.

What Is Menopause: Diagnosis

Menopause symptoms are typically sufficient to alert most women that they have begun the menopausal transition. However, if you are experiencing irregular periods, hot flashes, or other signs of low estrogen, it is always a good idea to contact your primary care physician to discuss your situation. In some circumstances, your doctor may recommend blood screenings to measure your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen (estradiol). As menopause occurs, FSH levels increase, and estrogen levels decrease. Because hypothyroidism can produce symptoms similar to those experienced during menopause, you may also undergo a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) screening to rule this out as the cause of your symptoms.

Menopause Treatment Options

Menopause Treatment Options

Although some external factors can cause menopause early, naturally occurring menopause is a fact for every woman. While menopause is not a medical condition and does not require treatment, it can still produce negative symptoms for some women. In fact, numerous studies of postmenopausal women conducted around the world found that hot flashes after menopause continue to occur for years, sometimes affecting women even 20 years after the initial onset of menopause. With these symptoms occurring so frequently and potentially lasting for decades, many women seek treatment options to manage their symptoms.

Based on your medical history and menopause symptoms, your doctor may suggest estrogen therapy to make up for lost natural estrogen production and relieve hot flashes. Typically, estrogen is provided at the lowest dose and within the shortest time frame that will provide effective symptom relief. Women who experience vaginal dryness, unwanted hair growth, and hot flashes can find relief with hormone therapy. However, doctors are often hesitant to prescribe these options unless necessary, due to their links to increased risk of stroke, heart disease and breast cancer. Estrogen and progestin can increase these risks, and estrogen-based hormone therapy can lead to the development of endometrial cancer.

To provide relief of menopause symptoms without the risks of hormone therapy, doctors can prescribe different medications to handle hot flashes, mood swings, cramps and other issues. When taken in low doses, antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may help women who cannot take estrogen for health reasons or women who are experiencing a mood disorder while undergoing menopause. Seizure medication Gabapentin and high blood pressure medication Clonidine can alleviate hot flashes. Doctors may also recommend medications that help prevent or treat osteoporosis and Vitamin D supplements to strengthen the bones.

Finding the Right Solution for You

Menopause doctor

Every woman experiences menopause differently, and it’s vital for every woman to know the best options for handling the potentially unpleasant side effects of the different stages of menopause. At Arizona Gynecology Consultants, our expert team of health care professionals has comprehensive knowledge in all aspects of women’s health care and can guide you through this challenging time with dedication and compassion. We provide the highest quality of health care services at several locations in the Phoenix metropolitan area, each with experienced menopause specialists who help patients manage their symptoms during every stage of menopause.

If you have questions about menopause, contact us for more information about resources in your area.

Related Reading: How Long Does Menopause Last on Average?

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published August 9, 2017 and has been updated April 4, 2021.

Endometriosis

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a uterine condition that affects as many as 1 in every 10 women during their childbearing years, or about 175 million women worldwide. Women with endometriosis experience a wide range of symptoms, and it’s crucial to understand this condition’s effects on a woman’s body and identify its existence as soon as possible.

Left unchecked, endometriosis can cause chronic, daily, and even debilitating pain for women and girls who experience it. Prolonged, unidentified endometriosis can even cause infertility; in fact, about 30 to 40 percent of women with endometriosis will experience infertility because of the condition. In addition, some of the symptoms of endometriosis can masquerade as other, common uterine and hormone-related conditions, lengthening the time to diagnosis and increasing infertility risks.

For that reason, early identification and treatment is crucial. Some women with endometriosis can manage the symptoms with simple treatments like hormone therapy or birth control, while others may require surgery. Building a wealth of knowledge about the condition can help you identify it, seek treatment, and make more informed decisions regarding the treatment process.

How Does Endometriosis Occur?

Endometriosis Diagram

As you may have suspected, endometriosis involves the uterus as well as potentially other reproductive organs within the woman’s body. The endometrium is the tissue that lines the walls of the uterus, and endometriosis is a condition that affects these tissues. During a normal menstrual cycle, the endometrium builds up in anticipation of pregnancy, where it is needed to help sustain a growing embryo or fetus; when pregnancy does not occur, the endometrium breaks down and is shed via menstruation.

A woman with endometriosis will start accumulating endometrial tissue outside the uterus, usually inside the abdominal cavity. Unfortunately, the tissues outside the uterus still respond to the menstrual cycle the same as the tissues inside the uterus. Once a period begins, these tissues will break apart and bleed. While the endometrium tissues inside the uterus can exit through the cervix, the tissues outside the uterus have nowhere to go.

How Does Endometriosis Affect Women?

The endometrium tissues that dissolve and bleed in the abdominal cavity will aggravate the other tissues around the uterus and cause inflammation, swelling and severe cramping pains. Doctors refer to the tissues scarred by endometrial tissues as nodules, implants, growths or lesions. This scarred, misplaced tissue is what causes the pain or discomfort common to endometriosis and can lead to the infertility so common to the condition. However, the exact symptoms experienced often depend on the location of the endometrium outside the uterus.

Most commonly, endometriosis affects:

  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Ligaments supporting the uterus
  • The area between the uterus and the rectum
  • The outside of the uterus
  • The lining of the pelvic cavity

In rare cases, endometrium tissues can accumulate in the intestines, anus, bladder, cervix, vagina or vulva, including previous abdominal surgery scars. In extremely rare cases, doctors have located endometrial tissues in patients’ thighs, arms and lungs.

Endometriosis is a progressive condition that may not manifest noticeable symptoms until many years after menstrual periods begin. Each cycle causes more endometrium accumulation. Over the years, the endometrium implants grow and affect more tissues. Menopause generally causes the symptoms of endometriosis to subside and the implants to deteriorate.

What Causes Endometriosis?

While researchers have made many discoveries regarding what happens to the tissues affected by endometriosis, the exact endometriosis causes remain unknown. Currently, the only endometriosis cases that can be linked to a definitive cause are those where direct transplantation – the transferal of endometrial tissue onto the abdominal wall after a caesarean section or other uterine surgery – has occurred.

Popular, evidence-based theories include:

  • Travel theories, in which researchers posit that endometrial tissues may travel via the blood and lymphatic systems and implant elsewhere in the body.
  • Reverse menstruation, in which some menstrual tissue reverses direction within the fallopian tubes and into the abdomen, where it implants.
  • Transformation, in which researchers suggest that other types of cells in any location may transform spontaneously into endometrial cells.

While research is ongoing, in an attempt to determine the root cause of endometriosis, researchers agree there may be a genetic component as well. Some women, due to genetic family history, may be predisposed to endometriosis.

Endometriosis Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Endometriosis

As mentioned earlier, identifying endometriosis symptoms early can allow for earlier treatment of the condition, perhaps reducing the chances women will experience infertility as a result. The early symptoms of endometriosis typically include more significant:

  • Menstrual cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or discomfort during urination and bowel movements
  • Heavier periods
  • Clotting during periods
  • Spotting during periods
  • Irregular periods
  • Fatigue and disrupted sleep
  • Depression

If endometriosis is allowed to progress, symptoms can spread beyond the reproductive system itself and into the other abdominal systems it affects. Endometrium implants can cause irritation that can progress into infections, abscesses or areas of the body that are tender to the touch. If endometriosis affects the tissues of the intestines or bladder, it can cause urinary or intestinal pains as well.

Endometriosis and PCOS Fertility

Although endometriosis is a fairly well-known and well-documented condition that causes infertility, it’s often confused with another common reproductive disorder known as polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. Both conditions can cause infertility but distinguishing between the two is important, since treatment regimens differ. So, what is PCOS and how is it different?

Simply put, while endometriosis involves the transferal and growth of the endometrium outside of the uterus, PCOS involves the ovaries. With PCOS, the ovaries don’t ovulate as they should, causing egg follicles to become stuck inside. While, on the surface, endometriosis and PCOS can feel like depression, “period pain” or “abdominal pain”, their primary symptoms and the method of diagnosis differ greatly.

Diagnosing Endometriosis Cases

A doctor will need to review a patient’s entire gynecological history to properly diagnose endometriosis. The doctor must also perform a full physical examination and a pelvic examination. In some cases where doctors have reason to believe endometrial tissue may have spread to other, specific areas within the pelvis, doctors may perform an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI to provide images of the organs in question.

Endometriosis Symptoms

However, a positive diagnosis is only confirmed with a laparoscopic procedure. During this procedure, the patient is typically subject to general anesthesia, and the abdomen inflated with air via a small needle; this allows the doctor to have a better view of all components of the abdominal cavity. Then, the doctor will insert a lighted laparoscopic surgical instrument through a small abdominal incision to view the internal organs and locate endometrial implants. Overall, the procedure takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Based on the findings during the laparoscopy, the doctor will be able to confirm the presence of endometriosis. However, doctors rarely eliminate the possibility of endometriosis, since endometrial growths may be tiny, or hidden by other tissues. Next, the doctor will rate the severity of the endometriosis present.

Determining Endometriosis Severity

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine has established a classification system for endometriosis, which is as follows:

  • Stage 1 – Minimal presence of endometriosis
  • Stage 2 – Mild presence of endometriosis
  • Stage 3 – Moderate presence of endometriosis
  • Stage 4 – Severe presence of endometriosis

To determine which stage each case of endometriosis falls under, doctors must first consider a number of factors, including:

  • The amount of tissue accumulation
  • The location of those tissues
  • The amount of scar tissue involved
  • The spread of the scar tissue within the abdominal cavity
  • Whether pelvic structures like the pelvic cavity or the pelvic floor are involved
  • Fallopian tube blockage
  • The presence of pelvic adhesions
  • The severity of the patient’s symptoms

Small, isolated endometrial implants are usually considered mild endometriosis, while more significant lesions would be moderate to severe endometriosis. More severe cases of endometriosis will also create more scar tissue, potentially involving the structural components of the pelvis, causing blockage of the Fallopian tubes and other organs.

Treatment Options for Endometriosis

Women diagnosed with endometriosis have a number of treatment options available, based on many factors such as overall health, the severity of the condition, tolerance for certain treatments, and the expected outcome of treatment. Endometriosis treatment may include:

  • Rest and relaxation. Avoiding stress, heat therapy, taking warm baths, and other relaxation techniques can help relieve minor symptoms of endometriosis and dyspareunia.
  • Diet changes. For minor cases, doctors may suggest a diet for endometriosis and fertility. Typically, this includes avoiding caffeine, alcohol, red meat and processed foods, as well as increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, Omega 3s and soy.
  • OTC medications. Doctors suggest simple pain medications such as ibuprofen for mild cases of endometriosis or other over the counter treatments like CBD endometriosis pain relievers.
  • Hormone therapy. Hormone treatment is very effective for small, isolated endometrial implants. Oral contraceptives that contain estrogen and progestin or synthetic progestin pills can provide relief in some cases.
  • Hormone blocking. Other women may require more robust treatments with synthetic pituitary blockers or gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists. These medications block hormones from the pituitary gland that contribute to the menstrual cycle. While these monthly injections are effective for some women, they also cause bone mineral loss.

Female hormone therapy

For women who want to become pregnant after treatment of endometriosis, the first three options are often considered the most conducive to a healthy pregnancy in the future. Some women opt for temporary hormone suppression therapy, so they can attempt to conceive afterward. For other patients, hormone suppressants can be an effective solution with the added benefit of preventing pregnancy, if desired. Still others require surgery to treat the cause of endometriosis pain.

Surgical Options

Some women with severe endometriosis will require surgery for relief. In these cases, surgeons will try to remove as much of the endometrium implants as possible without risking damage to the surrounding tissues. Primarily, endometriosis surgery is limited to three distinct options:

  • Laparoscopy. Some surgeons opt for laparoscopic laser removal, which begins with the same process used to diagnose endometriosis. Once endometrial tissue is found, the surgeon will cauterize and vaporize sections of endometrial tissue. Laparoscopic procedures are minimally invasive and have shorter recovery times than typical abdominal surgeries.
  • Laparotomy. For advanced cases, more drastic surgical options may be the only solution. A laparotomy uses a much larger incision into the abdominal cavity to expose more of the interior to the surgeon. Then, a similar procedure is used to excise the endometrial tissue. With a larger incision comes a more extended recovery period post-surgery.
  • Hysterectomy. For the most severe or advanced cases, a hysterectomy may be required to stop the symptoms of endometriosis. During this procedure, a surgeon removes the uterus altogether, either laparoscopically, through a large incision, or even through the vagina. In some cases, the ovaries are removed as well to inhibit tissue growth. After hysterectomy, future pregnancy is not possible.

Endometriosis Surgery

While conservative surgery is a safe and effective way to treat endometriosis, it’s important to treat as early as possible. In fact, as many as 40% of advanced endometriosis patients experience symptoms within five years as the result of tissue regrowth. More drastic surgeries such as hysterectomy with ovary removal do a better job of eliminating existing tissue and the hormone swings that cause it to grow, but regrowth and infertility is still possible. Thus, it’s vital for any woman considering any level of surgery to discuss the issue at length with her doctor.

Take Control of Your Uterine Health with Endometriosis Specialists in Arizona

Keeping close tabs on your menstrual cycles and uterine health are important at any age. Every endometriosis case is different, but your case can be manageable with early detection, symptom management and careful screening. The providers who work with Arizona Gynecology Consultants can handle any aspect of gynecological care, so contact us today if you would like more information about endometriosis or treatment options.

Adenomyosis: Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

Adenomyosis: Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

We’ve all heard about endometriosis, a condition in which the uterine lining (endometrium) develops outside the uterus and grows on other organs within the abdomen, including the ovaries. There is another condition that can take place with the endometrium, known as uterine adenomyosis. This condition affects women, mostly in child-bearing years, and can be quite painful. Although most women have never heard about it, near 20 percent of them are affected by it.

History and Definition of Adenomyosis

Whereas it was described as early as 1860, adenomyosis was not properly diagnosed or named until the early part of the 20th century. In 1908, Thomas Cullen investigated its causes and named it, determining it was not an inflammation of the uterus, because it did not present any signs.

Not until 1972 did a proper definition come about, made by Dr. Charles C Bird, MD. At that time, adenomysis was described a “benign invasion of endometrium into the myometrium, producing a diffusely enlarged uterus which microscopically exhibits ectopic non-neoplastic, endometrial glands and stroma, surrounded by the hypertrophic and hyperplastic myometrium”.

What Is Adenomyosis?

What Is AdenomyosisAdenomyosis is a condition in which the endometrium, instead of growing out into the uterus, grows into the uterine wall (myometrium). Each time the lining (endometrium) is stimulated, during the menstrual cycle, the trapped lining in the myometrium is also stimulated and can make menstrual cramps and pain worse. This can disrupt the quality of life for the women who have to deal with it. And because adenomyosis symptoms vary due to he flux of estrogen levels going up and down, the menstrual cycle brings more discomfort than usual.

The condition can either be generalized adenomyosis, spread out over a large area of the uterine wall, or localized a small area or spot, also known as adenomyoma. The area that is affected by adenomyosis is called the endometrial-myometrial junction, where the endometrium and myometrium meet. It is the disruption of this junction – adenomyosis – that is considered a contributing factor in the failure of eggs to settle and stay in the uterus, thus preventing women from becoming pregnant.

Symptoms and Treatment

In spite of it being a benign condition, adenomyosis symptoms run the gamut and include:

  • Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
  • Heavy periods (menorrhagia)
  • Bloody discharge or spotting between periods (metrorrhagia)
  • Bloating during pre-menstruation
  • Pain during or after sex (dyspareunia)
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Tender uterus and larger than normal in size

Women may also suffer from depression, irritability and reduced fertility or infertility. However, when women go into menopause and their estrogen levels drop, so do the symptoms of adenomyosis.

Drugs and Hormones

Adenomyosis treatments vary with the severity of the symptoms that present themselves. If the symptoms are mild enough, doctors can treat them with anti-inflammatory drugs and hormonal treatments. Usually they include contraceptive pills and IUDs. Certain surgeries can be performed that will treat the condition as well.

Uterine Artery Embolization

This procedure is usually used for uterine fibroids, but if the adenomyosis is just a small area or spots, this surgery could take care of it. The blood supply to the affected area is cut off and the adenomyosis shrinks. A 2007 study showed that after three to five years, the symptomatic pain was reduced by half and the success of the procedure was about 60 percent. This minimally invasive procedure leaves no scars.

Endometrial Ablation

Considered as a last resort procedure, endometrial ablation is conducted when other options have failed to relieve the symptoms. Because it destroys the endometrium, this is a permanent solution, like a hysterectomy and will only be done if the woman no longer wishes to become pregnant. It does, however, relieve the symptoms of adenomyosis, and the woman either has no more periods or has reduced bleeding. This may not work if the endometrium has infiltrated too far into the myometrium (uterine muscle wall).

MRI Surgery

MRI guided focused ultrasound surgery (MRgFUS) uses an MRI in real time to monitor focused high-intensity waves that create heat and destroy the targeted tissue. This is an early stage, non-invasive procedure that requires an overnight stay in a hospital or surgicenter setting. Because the uterus remains, this procedure allows a woman to still have children. The side effects are few and the prognosis is good, but it is not recommended for a woman who also has endometriosis.

Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is the only treatment that will eliminate all adenomyosis symptoms effectively and permanently. Hysterectomies have been the treatment for years, but are only done in severe cases of the condition and if the woman no longer wants to get pregnant. To prevent early menopause, the ovaries may be left in, if they are not affected by endometriosis, which can be a co-occurring condition.

Risk Factors and Causes

Middle-aged women who already have had children (the more children, the greater the risk) or who have had uterine surgery, such as a cesarean, or an inflammation after childbirth are more at risk for adenomyosis, however it can affect any woman before menopause. But a root cause has still not been found.

One of the risks of having adenomyosis is anemia from the blood loss each month. Anemia is a condition caused by an iron deficiency. This means the body cannot make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the various parts of the body. Dizziness, fatigue, and irritability ensue and can lead to depression and anxiety.

Adenomyosis Diagnosis

In the past, the only way to diagnose adenomyosis was postoperatively and it had never been fully characterized nor any epidemiological studies made, mostly due to the fact that surgical removal was also the only way to get rid of the symptoms. Adenomyosis was severely understudied and understood until recently, when better diagnostic tools became available. However, doctors have done extensive studies in recent years and have discovered much from the information.

A 2008 study determined that adenomyosis was just a variant and not a disease on its own. The symptoms that are associated with this condition, are also symptomatic of endometriosis and uterine fibroids, thus the recommendation for a hysterectomy to get rid of all the symptoms has continued to be the best solution.

A paper written in 2010 cited several studies on adenomyosis, one of which was done in Italy in 2009, that concluded women who had had induced abortions, dysmenorrhea or chronic pelvic pain were more likely to have adenomyosis. A different study corroborated that dysmenorrhea and chronic pelvic pain were symptomatic of adenomyosis, adding depression as another factor. A third study determined that women who are diagnosed with adenomyosis most likely also have endometriosis.

Biopsy

One of the preoperative diagnostic tools used are biopsies, using keyhole surgery or laparoscopy in order to take a tissue sample. With the addition of a camera, it has been easier to get a sample, but still no guarantee to get the “right” sample, because adenomyosis doesn’t always present itself readily, like endometriosis. As in the past, several samples would have to be taken to get a good diagnosis. The best way is through the vagina, however that may damage the uterus and may make it more difficult to have children in the future, and going through the abdomen is still only good for endometriosis diagnoses.

Better Methods

With the advent of MRI’s, diagnoses have been easier to make. With the MRI, the endometrium and myometrium are clearly defined and the endometrial-myometrial junction is also clearly distinguishable. The thickening of the affected area of the uterine wall is now also considered confirmation of adenomyosis. An adenomyosis ultrasound or more specifically, a Transvaginal ultrasound (TVU) is another way to diagnose possible adenomyosis. TVU is able to identify myometrial cysts but most importantly, disparities of myometrial texture and composition, which signal the presence of adenomyosis.

Medical Care for Adenomyosis

Adenomyosis is one of two endometrium-related conditions that are fairly common to have. It can cause painful and heavy periods, as well as chronic pelvic pain, bloating and an enlarged, tender uterus. The causes are mostly unknown, however women who have had uterine surgery or trauma, are more at risk than others. Diagnosis can be done more accurately nowadays with MRIs and TVUs, although the best way to get rid of all symptoms, especially if they are extremely painful and risk quality of life, is getting a hysterectomy.

That may not be the best answer for someone with only minor symptoms or who wishes to still have children. There are less invasive and permanent treatments, such as hormonal treatment or minor surgery to excise the involved portion of the uterus.

If you have any of the symptoms and suspect you may have adenomyosis, it’s best to check with your doctor as soon as possible. Following a pelvic exam, he or she may schedule you for an MRI or TVU to get a better look.

Arizona Gynecology Consultants is located in the Phoenix and Mesa metropolitan areas. We provide expert and individualized health and medical services for women of every age, treating each patient as a unique person. Our team specializes in all aspects of women’s health and we are dedicated to practicing excellence in women’s care.

SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION TO SEE IF ADENOMYOSIS IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF YOUR DISCOMFORT.

Low Estrogen: What It Means and What Symptoms to Look For

Low Estrogen: What It Means and What Symptoms to Look For

Estrogen plays a significant role in a woman’s life. Estrogen contributes to reproductive health as well as regulating aging. Most women understand that estrogen levels usually decrease during perimenopause or menopause, a sign that they are leaving the childbearing years behind.

Sometimes, it can happen early, such as when a woman over-exercises on a regular basis (exercise addiction), or she suffers from an eating disorder like anorexia, and her body can no longer maintain estrogen levels.

Decreasing estrogen levels, although considered a normal part of menopause, may cause adverse effects to a woman’s body and her health.

Estrogen in the Body

Estrogen is most notably responsible for the sexual development of girls during puberty. These levels of estrogen fluctuate throughout a woman’s lifetime up until menopause, when low levels of estrogen completely prevent menstruation and ovulation.

Estrogen also regulates:

  • Changes in breast tissue during adolescence and pregnancy
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Body weight, by helping control metabolism
  • Development and growth of healthy bone tissue
  • Healthy cardiovascular activity

With so many effects on various parts of the body, it is important that estrogen levels maintain a healthy standard. Low estrogen levels can be a sign of age, but seriously low levels can have lasting negative effects.

Causes for Concern

Any condition that impairs the ovaries can reduce estrogen production. The most common risk factor for women is age. As women age, perimenopause and menopause cause the body to produce less estrogen. Estrogen levels can also decrease for various other reasons, including:

  • Premature ovarian failure
  • Congenital conditions: Turner syndrome
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Excessive exercise
  • Being severely under or overweight
  • Chemotherapy
  • Low functioning pituitary gland

Other unique cases can include excessive exercising and eating disorders such as anorexia. If a woman is more than 15 percent underweight, the body can no longer maintain normal estrogen levels. In order to maintain healthy levels of estrogen, a woman should maintain a healthy diet, lifestyle, and weight.

Physical Symptoms of Low Estrogen

Effects and Symptoms

As women approach the age of 40, they may wonder what symptoms to look for that herald decreasing levels of estrogen. Estrogen depletion can bring on a combination of hormonal and biochemical fluctuations that can lead to changes in the brain and nervous system.

Irregular Periods

Estrogen is the critical hormone in regulating a woman’s period and menstrual cycle. Low estrogen levels can cause irregular periods, including shorter or longer periods, light or heavier flow, spotting, or missed periods altogether.

Infertility

Low estrogen directly affects ovulation. Without estrogen, ovulation will not occur making it difficult to become pregnant. This is considered infertility.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

The most common symptoms and probably the least liked, hot flashes and night sweats can go on for a long time: 7 to 11 years. They are caused by the hypothalamus which controls body temperature. When estrogen levels start going down, the hypothalamus can no longer regulate body temperature and even the slightest change can cause hot flashes or night sweats to bring the temperature down, or chills to bring it back up.

Insomnia and Fatigue

Estrogen produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that triggers melatonin, a hormone that helps a person sleep. Once a woman goes into menopause, the depleted estrogen levels produce less serotonin and by extension, less melatonin. With the night sweats that interrupt sleep, fatigue and insomnia become the new normal.

Mood Swings

Hormonal imbalances, that often make teenagers moody and difficult, are back during menopause, making women grumpy. Add lack of sleep and it can get worse. Mood swings – laughing, crying, anger and upset – at the drop of a hat – are all part of the package.

Depression and Difficulty Focusing

Serotonin also affects mood and social behavior, as well as memory, sexual desire and function.  With lowered serotonin levels, depression, not just mood swings, can occur and it becomes more difficult to recover from it. Memory lapses and trouble focusing or concentrating are two more symptoms of low estrogen and serotonin levels. Some experts believe that they put women at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Physical Symptoms of Low Estrogen

The brain and nervous system are not the only parts of a woman that are affected by menopause and lowered estrogen levels. Of course, the reproductive system’s ability decreases with age as ovary function and estrogen levels go down. But the skin, heart, bones and urinary systems are also affected.

Dry Everything and Low Sexual Desire

Dry skin, dry eyes and a dry vagina are more signs of menopause and low estrogen levels. These can be allayed with moisturizing fluids, such as lotion, eye drops and lubricant (in that order). Unfortunately, reduced sexual desire comes from decreased estrogen and serotonin levels. Menopause also makes the vaginal walls thinner and they lose elasticity, coupled with vaginal dryness, sex can be painful.

The skin loses its moisture-holding abilities as well as its elasticity, leading to dryness, itching, and an increase in wrinkling and sagging. Also, it becomes more susceptible to injury, such as bruising, due to thinning of the skin and it doesn’t heal as quickly. Researchers are beginning to study the lack of estrogen as a possible connection to melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer.

The Heart Connection

As women get older, they become more vulnerable to cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks, strokes, or other heart-related problems. Hypertension, or high blood pressure is the biggest cardiovascular risk for women in and after menopause. Normally estrogen increases levels of nitric oxide, which is a very powerful dilator of blood vessels, and dilated blood vessels are conducive to healthy blood pressure.

Lowered estrogen levels make hypertension an increasingly bigger factor in women.

Though this may not start until just before perimenopause, it can quickly increase until about age 60, when the new level of blood pressure stabilizes to a new norm.

The Beautiful Bones

After the age of 30, new bone production cannot keep up with bone loss and once menopause hits and estrogen levels decrease, women have an increased risk for low bone mineral density, osteopenia and osteoporosis. This bone density loss can lead to weakening of the bones and an increased risk for fractures and other injuries.

The Urinary System

No laughing matter, incontinence is one of the signs of decreased estrogen levels. Just as with the vaginal walls, the reduced levels of estrogen cause the urethra walls to thin, dry and lose elasticity. This causes the incontinence when coughing, laughing, sneezing or lifting heavy objects. It also leads to feeling the need for frequent urination and an increased risk for developing UTIs.

Weight Gain

Estrogen plays a significant role in weight management and how the body stores fat. During perimenopause and menopause low estrogen contributes to weight gain. Specifically women store more fat in their thighs and hips, which can change during menopause. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help combat weight gain with low estrogen levels.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Low Estrogen

If any of the above-noted symptoms appear, the first step is to get a physical exam by a trusted physician who can review your medical history and symptoms. It may be necessary to do a blood test to check hormone levels. The doctor may also recommend additional tests to rule out other conditions that might be causing symptoms similar to low estrogen.

Synthetic Hormone Treatment

Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is sometimes recommended for women who do not have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems. There are various types of HRTs available, including one that combines estrogen with progesterone, a hormone that maintains pregnancy. There are side effects that need to be considered, but these can be discussed with a doctor, to determine which HRT is best.

Sometimes all that is needed are serotonin-boosting antidepressants for those women who end up suffering from depression more than the other symptoms.

Estrogen Therapy

Estrogen therapy is recommended by a doctor or medical expert. In some cases, small amounts of estrogen can be used to combat those who have had small changes in their estrogen levels, such as women who have had their ovaries removed. In other instances, estrogen therapy may be used to treat certain symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

Natural Treatments

Natural remedies include natural food and soy supplements, maintaining a healthy weight and, in some cases, decreasing the intensity or frequency of exercise. Soy or soybean isoflavones are, at best, an alternative treatment for HRT, and at worst, a controversial treatment with increased risk for breast cancer. It’s best to speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before adding this or any supplement to your diet.

Exercise and eating foods rich in calcium and adding vitamin D supplements during and after menopause is a good way to maintain and increase bone density. Low-fat milk, cheese and dairy products, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and okra, as well as soybeans and soy products such as tofu, are great for getting the extra calcium needed. It is important to remember that exercise must also be sufficient, but not excessive. Too much exercise and too little body fat can further decrease levels of estrogen.

Estrogen Overview

Reduced estrogen levels can cause many problems for women, including an increased risk of serious conditions, including heart disease, osteoporosis (softening of bone tissue), and obesity. However there are ways to lessen the symptoms and the impact of lower estrogen levels to a woman’s overall wellbeing, including her physical, emotional, and sexual health.

The sooner a woman can be screened for low estrogen levels, the better chance she has at combatting the negative effects listed above. AZGYN’s Gynecology Services and Minimally Invasive Procedures can be the solution for many women. They provide an assortment of general health practices and specialized services by expert staff and surgeons.

If you are a woman and suspect you have low estrogen levels, contact us for help today.

Signs, Symptoms, And Treatments Of Uterine Fibroids

Signs, Symptoms, And Treatments Of Uterine Fibroids

This entry was posted in Health FAQs and tagged on by .

Uterine fibroids are one of the most common gynecological conditions seen in America and a leading cause of uterine surgery for premenopausal women. Roughly 70%* of Caucasian women will experience uterine fibroids, and the rate is higher for African-American women who generally report stronger symptoms at younger ages. Uterine fibroids may be asymptomatic for some women and severely problematic for others. Uterine fibroid removal procedures are also the second most common surgical procedure after Caesarean section operations among premenopausal women.

What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are growths that appear in and on the uterus. These benign tumors grow in the muscle tissue of the uterine walls and rarely indicate cancer. The exact cause of uterine fibroids remains unknown, and these growths may eventually become quite large and cause intense symptoms. Other women may develop uterine fibroids and never notice any adverse symptoms. Other common names for uterine fibroids include leiomyomas, myomas, uterine myomas, and fibromas.

Types Of Uterine Fibroids

The size and location of uterine fibroids are the major contributing factors in the severity of negative symptoms. Gynecologists generally divide uterine fibroids into four categories:

  • Intramural fibroids, the most commonly diagnosed type that manifest within the walls of the uterus. These fibroids may eventually grow and distort the shape of the womb.
  • Subserosal fibroids, which form on the outer walls or serosa of the uterus. These fibroids can eventually cause the uterus to appear larger on one side.
  • Predunculated fibroids, which are subserosal fibroids that develop long stems that support the bodies of the tumors.
  • Submucosal fibroids, the least common type of fibroids found in the myometrium or middle muscle layer of the uterus.

Any of these types of uterine fibroids may cause adverse symptoms of varying degrees or no symptoms at all. Although there is no clearly defined cause of uterine fibroids, women can refer to several indicators to determine their level of risk of yet undetected uterine fibroids. However, uterine fibroids requiring treatment cause adverse symptoms that most women would report to their gynecologists as soon as symptoms appear.

Indicators Of Uterine Fibroid Risk

Although there is no firmly defined cause of uterine fibroids, medical researchers point to various possible causes and contributing factors that all women should know.

  • The ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, two vital hormones for proper reproductive cycles. These hormones regenerate the uterine lining during each menstrual cycle, potentially stimulating uterine fibroid growth.
  • Genetics may also predispose a woman to developing uterine fibroids. If your mother, grandmother, or other female relatives experienced uterine fibroids in the past, you could as well.
  • Pregnancy causes an increase in estrogen and progesterone production to maintain the uterine lining. This may lead to uterine fibroids growing rapidly during a pregnancy.
  • Medical research points to obesity as a possible contributing factor to uterine fibroids.
  • African-American women generally face a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids, and women over 30 in general face the greatest risk.

Discuss any concerns about your risk factors or medical history with your gynecologist, but remember that uterine fibroids may not require treatment or removal at all unless they cause severe adverse symptoms.

Are Uterine Fibroids Cancerous?

While there is a risk of a uterine fibroid turning cancerous, it is a very small chance. Only about one of every 1,000 uterine fibroid cases involves leiomyosarcoma, or a cancerous fibroid. ** Women should know that having uterine fibroids does not increase the risk of developing cancerous fibroids, nor do they increase the risk of developing other types of uterine cancers.

Common Symptoms

Many women have uterine fibroids and may not even know it because their conditions are asymptomatic. When they do report symptoms, the number, size, and location of their fibroids generally inform the severity of their symptoms. Some of the most commonly reported uterine fibroid symptoms include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Pelvic pain or feelings of intense pressure
  • Menstrual periods lasting longer than one week
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder
  • Pain in the legs and lower back
  • In rare cases, acute pain as fibroids lose blood supply and begin to die

Any woman who experiences these or other adverse symptoms should report them to her gynecologist as soon as possible.

Fibroids may not interfere with pregnancy in some cases, but in others they can cause infertility or even loss of pregnancy. Submucosal fibroids generally carry the greatest risk of interfering with pregnancy, but any type of fibroids may lead to fetal growth restriction, placental abruption, or preterm delivery.

When To See A Doctor

Women who experience sudden changes in menstrual cycles, experience excessively heavy, painful or prolonged periods, or periods lasting more than one week should seek medical care as soon as possible. Other worrisome symptoms that require immediate treatment include blood spotting between periods, pelvic pain that does not go away, and difficulty emptying the bladder. Any onset of sudden, sharp pain should also be cause to see a gynecologist as soon as possible.

Treating Uterine Fibroids

Lifestyle changes and holistic therapies may help ease the symptoms of uterine fibroids and prevent flare-ups in the future. Yoga, massage, and meditation can have positive effects, and dietary changes that include foods rich in flavonoids can boost overall nutrition and reduce the negative impact of fibroids. Other common treatments include medications, contraceptive devices, and surgery. Hormone medications can restore appropriate levels of estrogen and progesterone in the bloodstream and limit the blood flow to uterine fibroids. Anti-inflammatory painkillers and some forms of birth control may also ease symptoms.

Uterine Fibroids

When a uterine fibroid diagnosis requires surgery, it is usually due to a very large fibroid or a cluster of many fibroids. Although there are minimally invasive procedures to help remove fibroids, they may grow back after surgery. If fibroids reach severe levels or grow too large, the woman may require a hysterectomy. Speak with your gynecologist as soon as possible if you believe you are experiencing adverse symptoms from uterine fibroids.

Is Heavy Uterine Bleeding Serious And A Sign For Surgery

Is Heavy Uterine Bleeding Serious And A Sign For Surgery?

Menstrual periods vary from person to person. While one woman’s period can be light and short, others can experience a heavy menstrual cycle full of cramps, back pain, and emotional turmoil. Most of these are not a cause for alarm; however, you might wonder if an extremely heavy flow is. Sometimes, the answer is yes.

While not all heavy flows are a symptom of an underlying health condition, there are certain signs that you should not ignore.

Common Causes Of A Heavy Menstrual Period

Women are all made differently, and periods can change from month to month. Diet, genetics, sexual habits, birth control methods, and many other factors can change the flow of your period. However, there are a few common causes of heavy uterine bleeding that are not related to your daily life and may need medical intervention. A few possible causes are:

  • Hormone imbalance, such as PCOS
  • Pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis and adenomyosis
  • Genetic bleeding disorders
  • Ovarian dysfunction
  • Fibroids or polyps in the uterus
  • Intrauterine devices
  • Uterine or cervical cancer

Menorrhagia is the medical term for abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. Medical professionals define abnormal bleeding as any amount of period blood over 80 milliliters – typically about 16 tampons. Symptoms of menorrhagia include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding for longer than one week
  • Menstrual clotting with clots larger than a quarter
  • Anemia symptoms, including fatigue and shortness of breath

Usually, women with menorrhagia have to change their menstrual pads or tampons multiple times a day because the blood soaks through the products so quickly. Some women have to double up on their pads to ensure no blood seeps through them. Others might need to wake up during the night to change their pad or tampon. Their periods may even restrict their daily activities because of their heavy flow.

How To Treat An Abnormally Heavy Flow

Treatment for menorrhagia is based on a number of factors, including your lifestyle, your plans to bear children, your reaction to medications, and your overall health. Doctors treat menorrhagia through medications, surgery, and other procedures.

When you visit a doctor for menorrhagia, they will ask you about your menstrual cycles, medical history, and family background. They may also take a blood sample, an ultrasound, a Pap smear, or a biopsy to determine the cause of the heavy flow.

After your initial intake, the doctor can recommend a number of treatments:

  • Medications such as ibuprofen to relieve pain, oral contraceptives to regulate your cycle, and tranexamic acid to relieve bleeding
  • A hormonal IUD to reduce your uterine lining
  • Progesterone to fix a hormonal imbalance
  • Various surgical procedures

Risks Of Heavy Uterine Bleeding

There are certain symptoms associated with heavy uterine bleeding that you should never ignore. These symptoms can develop into potentially dangerous conditions.

You should seek medical attention for menorrhagia and heavy uterine bleeding if:

  • You experience any vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • You soak through at least one pad or tampon per hour
  • You bleed between periods
  • You experience any other form of irregular vaginal bleeding

Prolonged menstrual bleeding can lead to the development of anemia. When you bleed such a heavy amount, you’re losing vital red blood cells. When you lose these cells, your body uses up iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps blood cells carry oxygen through your body. However, this decreases your iron levels, increasing your risk of developing anemia.

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Unusually rapid heart rate

The symptoms of anemia alone are enough to cause difficulty in your daily life. Anemia can also lead to severe organ damage because the condition reduces the amount of oxygen that your body receives. Heart damage is especially common, since your heart will need to work harder to make up for your low red blood cell count. Pregnant women with anemia are at risk of premature birth, miscarriage, and low birth weight.

Surgery For Heavy Uterine Bleeding

If heavy menstruation is affecting your daily life, talk to your doctor. Menorrhagia surgery may be a way to transform this difficulty. Doctors may consider surgery depending on a few factors, including the severity of your condition. If you have a fear of surgical procedures, consider visiting Arizona Gynecology Consultants to find an alternative, noninvasive treatment for your condition.

Common menorrhagia surgeries include:

  • Focused ultrasound surgery, which treats bleeding from fibroids
  • Hysterectomy, which removes the uterus and cervix
  • Myomectomy, which removes fibroids
  • Uterine artery embolization, which shrinks fibroids by cutting off blood supply
  • Dilation and curettage, endometrial resection, and endometrial ablation, which all remove the uterine lining

Call Arizona Gynecology Consultants For Advice

Contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants today to discuss whether your heavy menstrual flow is a cause for concern. Our compassionate staff can schedule an appointment and offer advice on the best way to negotiate uterine bleeding until you see a physician.

How Diet Can Impact The Risk Of Cancer Development In Women

How Diet Can Impact the Risk of Cancer Development in Women

The foods we eat impact our health in countless ways, and women need to know how food can affect the risk of developing certain cancers. While there are cancer-fighting foods and various nutritional supplements you can take to reduce your risk of developing some cancers, it’s also important to identify individual risk factors, genetic markers, and other variables on the individual level. Diet and cancer have strong links, and choosing the right foods can help to prevent cancer or recover from it.

Making Better Food Choices

Everyone should try to limit the risk of developing cancer by making health-conscious decisions. An anti-cancer diet should include foods that bolster the immune system and organ function. A plant-based diet generally offers the best dietary support. Dark, leafy greens, vegetables, and some fruits should form the bulk of a cancer prevention diet.

Food And Cancer Risk

While there are foods that help fight cancer, there are also foods that increase the risk of developing certain cancers. Some foods cause health problems like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease that increase the risk of developing some cancers. For example, obesity greatly increases the risk of cancer in the colon, kidneys, pancreas, and esophagus. Overweight people generally produce more insulin and estrogen, two naturally occurring hormones that can increase the growth rate of cancer cells.

Breast Cancer

A study from the International Journal of Cancer reported that processed meat consumption could increase the risk of developing breast cancer*. Fast food restaurants that serve processed meat products and frozen meals with processed meats are common choices for many Americans due to their convenience, and overconsumption of these foods can interfere with healthy digestion and lead to an increased breast cancer risk.

Human breast tissue and mammary glands also develop a natural balance of probiotic bacterial microbes, and diet can disrupt this balance**. One study showed that diet can disrupt probiotic bacteria balance in the body outside of the digestive tract, so it is possible for some foods to affect mammary health and development. A study from the Clinical & Experimental Metastasis journal*** reported that a diet high in fish oils could slow breast cancer cell growth.

Developing A Better Diet

Anti Cancer FoodEveryone has individual dietary issues, but it can be easier than you expect to build a diet with the best cancer-fighting foods for you. Some of the best foods for a healthy cancer-fighting diet include:

  • Coffee. Coffee can help reduce the risk of developing some types of uterine cancer and alter the way the body processes estrogen and insulin.
  • Garlic is a food that contains nutrients that can prevent bowel, stomach, colon, and breast cancers.
  • Lentils. These small beans are very rich in dietary fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and a healthy weight. Fiber also limits the risk of colon and stomach cancer by making it difficult for tumor cells to grow in the gut.
  • Leafy green vegetables. Kale, broccoli, and spinach are some of the healthiest foods anyone can eat. These vegetables reduce the risk of heart disease, digestive cancers, and promote a healthy weight.
  • Onions. The anti-inflammatory properties of onions and shallots can prevent colon and liver cancer.
  • Grapes. These sweet berries contain an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer growth in the breasts, lymph nodes, liver, and stomach.

These are just a few of the foods that can increase your protection from certain types of cancer. While adding these foods to your diet can increase resistance to some types of cancer, it is also vital to remove other elements of your diet that may be increasing your cancer risk. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid:

  • Overly processed foods, especially processed meat products
  • Frozen meat products and prepared meals with lots of preservatives
  • Sugary foods and beverages
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol

Making Healthier Life Choices To Reduce Cancer Risk

In addition to proper diet, a few simple lifestyle changes can improve overall health and limit the risk of cancer too. Regular physical activity helps keep heart function and blood flow at appropriate levels and can limit the risk of developing some types of cancer. Portion control and avoiding unhealthy foods helps to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn prevents the cancers associated with obesity.

Stress management also plays a role in overall health. Mental fatigue and acute stress can have a dramatic impact on the body, and it’s essential to develop healthy coping techniques. Treating stress with unhealthy foods or alcohol not only diminishes overall health, but also makes it more difficult to build healthy stress management techniques in the long run.

Metabolism’s Role In Female Health

If you want to know how to avoid cancer you need to assess your personal dietary needs and decide how to adjust your diet in healthy ways that work for you. If weight loss is a concern, some diet plans may be very restrictive and cause stress, ultimately leading to more adverse health problems later.

Finding The Support You Need

Arizona Gynecology Consultants is a team of experienced medical professionals dedicated to promoting women’s health. Our team treats individual patient issues with comprehensive, personalized treatment plans that address not only adverse symptoms, but also the causes of those symptoms. Hormones and metabolism play a very significant role in women’s health and developing certain types of cancer.

Arizona Gynecology Consultants offers a wide range of women’s health services, screenings, and dietary support resources to help you build a diet that reduces your risk of developing cancer. Women who have already received cancer diagnoses can bolster their treatment and speed up recovery with some dietary changes as well.

The first step in overcoming cancer or preventing cancer in the first place is a full assessment of your dietary and metabolic needs, and Arizona Gynecology Consultants can help. Learn more about our specialists and the women’s health services we offer.

What Is a Prolapsed Bladder and How Do I Treat It

What Is a Prolapsed Bladder and How Do I Treat It?

Many women after having children, going through hysterectomy, or undergoing the aging process experience symptoms that are not only uncomfortable but embarrassing. There are products available that can help alleviate the humiliation, such as adhesive strip underwear pads, panties or disposable underwear. But those can be costly over time and put a damper on style and spontaneity. If you think you could be suffering from what is called a prolapsed bladder or cystocele, there are ways to help minimize the symptoms and possibly reverse the condition, noninvasively.

The Physical Attributes of Cystocele

With cystocele it can feel as though your bladder is dropping. In a sense, it is. The bladder itself is a muscular-like organ, hollow, that resembles a balloon, expanding and retracting depending on the level of urine present. When a woman gets the urge to empty the bladder, urine flows from the bladder downward through the urethra and ultimately out of the body. The bladder is located in close proximity to other parts of the reproductive system, in the middle of both pelvic bones. Positioned alongside the urethra is the vagina, the connection point between the uterus and the outside. When prolapse happens, the bladder drops from its original position and protrudes into the vagina. As ominous as this may sound, many women who have the condition don’t know it.

Symptoms of a Prolapsed Bladder

There are many ways that the body provides an indication that a prolapsed bladder exists. Each woman is different and all symptoms don’t need to be met to have the condition.

Prolapsed Bladder Symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Sensation of needing to urinate often
  • Bladder leakage from pressure put on the area (or from coughing, sneezing, laughing)
  • Partial voiding, when urine remains in the bladder
  • Increase in bladder infections
  • Pain in the lower back or pelvic area
  • Feeling of heaviness, fullness, or droopiness in pelvic area
  • Bladder coming through the vagina
  • Difficulty when inserting vaginal applicators and tampons

After you’ve gone through the above list and identified which symptoms resonate with your day-to-day, find details below that indicate the various stages of prolapsed bladder.

Stages of a Prolapsed Bladder

Depending on how extensive the bladder has dropped, the options in how best to treat the condition will be discussed and a treatment protocol will be determined. A visit with your Ob/Gyn or other healthcare practitioner will uncover the specific stage of prolapse.

Prolapsed Bladder Staging

  • Stage 1 – Mild condition, bladder has slightly extended into the vagina.
  • Stage 2 – Moderate condition, bladder has dropped to the vagina opening.
  • Stage 3 – Severe condition, bladder protrudes through the opening of the vagina.

Based on the type of symptoms, a doctor may want to insert a catheter through the urethra to measure how much urine is left in the bladder after voiding: this is termed postvoid residual. Other ways to examine the status of the bladder are through a bladder ultrasound using a transducer (creates sound waves for imaging) or an x-ray exam of the bladder, known as a cystourethrogram, that is done while a woman is urinating. The procedure does not require anesthesia though sedation is often an option.

If you are one of the many women experiencing any stage of bladder prolapse, it may come by you honestly.

Why Does the Female Bladder Drop Over Time?

Genetics do play a role in a woman’s predisposition to prolapsed bladder. In addition, hormones can also create the basis for its development. As we age, our natural levels of estrogen drop often compromising the vagina as estrogen strengthens the muscles that support it. Over time, the vagina weakens, and by the way of gravity, begins to fall. A repercussion to hysterectomy (partial and full) is the development of a prolapsed bladder. The National Institute of Health (NIH) studied the effects of hysterectomy on the female bladder and found a correlation. After these procedures, women will engage an immediate drop in estrogen production, which is often why some elect to include hormone therapy to their lives. However, this course of action may not circumvent the state of the bladder.

Other aspects of life may lead to a fallen bladder.

Prolapsed Bladder Causes

  • Excessive coughing
  • Physical activity that strains pelvic area
  • Vaginal births
  • Constipation and pushing through bowel movements
  • Obesity*

*While obesity can predicate a fallen bladder, diet or specific nutrition is not directly linked to the condition.

Options in Treating Prolapsed Bladder

The stage of prolapsed bladder will often dictate the treatment choices available to the patient. The good news is that for many women, certain exercises will not only prevent prolapse but can do much to reverse the condition.

For women who have severe prolapse, surgery may be necessary to lift the bladder away from the vagina and reconstruct the vaginal wall to adequately support the bladder. A surgeon, usually a urologist or Ob/Gyn will tighten the tissue that surrounds these organs. The post-op for the surgery is between 4 to 6 weeks.

For moderate bladder prolapse, patients can be offered a vaginal pessary that is inserted into the vagina. The small device comes in a myriad of sizes to fit each woman as needed, keeping the bladder in place while providing the vaginal wall the support required, preventing further damage.

Exercise, will often be the panacea for women who are amidst early-stage bladder prolapse and also serves as a continual strength builder for the treatment and prevention of this condition. Here are some ways to add bladder health to your everyday regimen.

Kegel A Falling Bladder Back into Place

A kegel a day keeps the bladder at bay

Strangely enough, there’s an exercise that can be done in the comfort of your car, your office or while sitting at the dinner table and no one will ever know you’re doing it. The exercise is called the kegel and it isn’t just for pregnancy. Men can find benefit from it too.

Meant to increase the strength of the vaginal wall and the ability to gain control over bladder control, kegeling can change your life for the better. The key to a proper kegel is to discern which pelvic muscles apply and to perform this exercise ritual faithfully up to 3 or 4 sessions a day for maximum benefit.

How to Kegel:

  1. Squeeze the genital muscles as if pulling them up from the inside.
  2. Each squeeze, should be able to (if desired) stop the flow of urine.
  3. Hold the squeeze for 3 full seconds.
  4. Release the squeeze.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Begin the exercise and complete 10 successions, to reach a total of 25 per day.

There is no reason to live with the discomfort and humiliation of a prolapsed bladder and its associated symptoms. Start kegeling. Seek a medical practitioner knowledgeable in this condition for a formal diagnosis and recommended treatment that will provide optimal results.

Why You Can’t Stop the Stream