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Signs and symptoms of menopause

menopause

Menopause can be an uncomfortable time, and for some an uncomfortable topic, but this normal, natural process is just one more phase of women’s lives. While it does mean the end of fertility, it certainly does not mean the end of an active, healthy lifestyle as a woman. Signs, which are mainly related to lowered levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, can be both physical and mental.

Menopause begins 12 months after a woman’s final menstrual period, which typically happens during a woman’s 40s or 50s. However, women can begin experiencing signs of menopause while still menstruating; this is called perimenopause and occurs in the months or years before menstruation ends. Signs include:

Irregular periods. Leading up to the end of menstruation, most women do not have a period on a regular monthly schedule, and the periods they do have may be heavier or lighter than usual, with occasional spotting. Since pregnancy is still possible during perimenopause, it is important to test for pregnancy if you are unsure if you’re transitioning into menopause. A missed period without pregnancy may be an indicator of perimenopause, but can also occur with physical or emotional stress, thyroid dysfunction, etc.
Vaginal dryness and more urinary tract infections (UTIs). Signs of vaginal dryness include stinging or burning, itching around the vulva and pain or light bleeding during sexual activity. It can occur at any age, but in perimenopause it is related to the lowered levels of estrogen and progesterone that signal menopause. This dryness can be soothed with a water-based lubricant or physician-approved vaginal moisturizer. Decreased estrogen and progesterone also account for more instances of UTIs due to a lack of hormonal influence on the urethral lining and may be characterized by a persistent urge to urinate or a burning sensation when urinating. Continue Reading »

5 ways winter affects your health

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Winter—especially in areas like the Midwest—can seem like the longest season of all. Aside from the stress of hearing snowbunnies and sun lovers debate the merits and setbacks of the snow and icy season, there are a few winter health issues to be wary of as well.

1. The winter blues
Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? SAD is a type of depressive disorder that is brought on by winter’s shorter days—with early sunsets and late sunrises, the lack of natural sunlight causes some to experience increased sleepiness, increased appetite, a heavy sensation in the limbs, loss of interest, a sense of hopelessness and social withdrawal. The endorphins gained from exercise can be helpful with SAD symptoms, as can light therapy, which uses a special lamp to make up for missing natural sunlight. Make sure to speak with your provider if you experience these symptoms.

2. Winter dry eye
Between the cold, dry air and the dryness from indoor heating (especially space heaters), winter can often be a time of burning, itching eyes. These symptoms, along with a feeling of grittiness, indicate that your eyes are not producing enough tears to keep them comfortably moist. Dry eyes can be relieved with artificial tears, using a cool-mist humidifier and eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such fish and flax seed. In severe cases, a procedure that closes the ducts that drain tears from the surface of the eyes may be needed.

3. Dry skin
In addition to dry eyes, winter’s cold air and low humidity can also cause severely dry and cracked skin. A cool-mist humidifier is also helpful in this situation, as is taking shorter showers and skipping baths, which tend to exacerbate dry skin. A good moisturizer is key during cold months, and don’t skimp on places like elbows and feet, which are especially prone to dryness and painful, cracked skin. Use a moisturizer with SPF—even if the sun isn’t out long during winter months, its rays can still cause damage. Continue Reading »

Facts about depression

depressionEveryone has a bad day or a case of the blues once in a while, but when “the blues” result in experiencing little or no joy in your daily life, it may be an indication of something more serious. Chronic sadness or depression is something that lingers for quite some time and is difficult to shake off if untreated.

Here are some facts about depression that you may not know:

  • Depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide
  • Women suffer from depression twice as often as men
  • Many people suffer with depression but do not seek help
  • Depression is treatable Continue Reading »

National Depression Screening Day

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Oct. 10 is National Depression Screening Day, a day to help call attention to screening opportunities for people with depression and anxiety disorders. Affinity Health System is dedicated to helping raise awareness about depression and other mood disorders and has joined forces with community partners in the Fox Valley to speak out.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide. People with depression may not feel comfortable talking with family, friends or colleagues about how they feel and often hide it from those around them. They may believe they just need to “toughen up” and that depression will go away by itself, but what they really need is to get help or seek treatment. Continue Reading »

Shedding light on SAD

Shedding light on SAD

Been feeling blue since winter set in? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by lack of sunlight. In areas of the country like Wisconsin where winter days are cold and short and leave little opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, SAD is not uncommon. It affects up to 20 percent of the population, mostly women in their 20s and 30s. Learn to recognize the signs of SAD in your workplace so you can prevent productivity from dropping with the temps.

SAD Facts
“Lack of sunlight interrupts the sleep-wake cycle – called circadian rhythms – and it can also drain the body’s levels of serotonin, a brain chemical affecting mood,” says Daniel Neunaber, PhD, psychologist with Affinity Health System. SAD is often treated with light therapy. “For half an hour a day, sufferers can sit in front of a special light box that mimics the sun and signals the brain to produce more serotonin, lifting mood and relieving symptoms of SAD,” says Dr. Neunaber.
 
SAD Symptoms
SAD usually occurs between November and February, winter’s darkest months. Symptoms start to ease when spring weather returns in March or April. Common complaints include:
  • grumpy, anxious or irritable mood
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • daytime drowsiness
  • changes in appetite, weight or sleep habits

As with other forms of depression, these symptoms appear in the workplace in the form of poor job performance, calling in sick or squabbling with co-workers. How can you help?

Use Your EAP
If you suspect an employee is suffering from seasonal affective disorder, encourage him to get help. “Counselors can offer coping strategies for people struggling with seasonal depression and its related effects,” says Donna Schmitz, EAP counselor for Affinity Health System. If further support or treatment is needed, your EAP can connect SAD sufferers with more resources.

Create a Bright Spot
If possible, provide places for employees to soak in some natural light. It’s best if lunch rooms and break areas have windows, but if that’s not an option, try adding more lights to the space. “Dimly lit rooms only compound the problem,” says Dr. Neunaber.  

Break the Cabin Fever
It may be cold outside, but you don’t have to cease all outdoor activities until spring. Start a winter walking club and venture out for brisk strolls on milder days. The natural light and exercise can be therapeutic.

For more information, visit http://www.affinityhealth.org/page/services-specialty-occupational

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.