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MAIN Arrow to Home LifeHealth Arrow to Family HealthMenopause

Menopause Symptoms Can Be Serious
But Many Doctors May Not Take It Seriously

suffering from menopauseWomen are exchanging recipes for herbs to cool down hot flashes and talking with friends about how to deal with emotional mood swings, mental lapses, night sweats, insomnia and possible bone loss - all common symptoms of menopause.

Women may be talking to each other, but a survey of menopausal women finds that many women aren't talking about these symptoms with their doctors.

Why? Women are not always certain what to expect from menopause and when they do try to ask for guidance, doctors often trivialize symptoms and leave decisions about treatment up to their patients.

Women Express Dissatisfaction
The J.D. Power and Associates survey, commissioned by the National Consumers League (NCL), surveyed more than 800 women who were not currently taking hormone therapy. According to the survey's findings, nearly one-third of the women said they're not discussing their symptoms with doctors.

They found that, as the severity of menopausal symptoms increases, satisfaction levels with doctor-patient relationship decreases. The survey also found that the severity of symptoms made a difference in the impact on daily life and the relationships that women were able to maintain with their doctors and families.

The women who answered the survey reported that the perceived physical, emotional, and personal impact of symptoms increased along with their severity.

Clearing Up The Confusion

In the past, doctors would just recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as the usual way to stop symptoms. Menopause is the result of a woman's body producing less estrogen as her childbearing years draw to a close. HRT replaced the naturally occurring estrogen.

Soon a major study of the benefits of HRT was discontinued when it became clear that there was a very high risk of breast cancer and other negative outcomes associated with this treament.

“Women say they need help, but telling them to talk to their doctors is obviously not enough. Many menopausal women don't even understand what they are going through, so beginning conversations with their doctors about symptoms is impossible,” says Linda F. Golodner, NCL president.

Patient Dissatisfaction
Most women want more information about menopause to improve the quality of dialogue with their doctors.

  • Almost one-third of the women surveyed indicate they are not talking with their doctors about their symptoms.

  • Nearly one-third (32 percent) say that doctors tend to trivialize menopausal symptoms, and 43 percent of doctors agree.

  • Most doctors also report that they don't understand exactly what women go through during menopause.

  • More than 80 percent of doctors say that, in general, doctors don't know everything about menopause.

  • More than three-quarters of women (76 percent) say menopause-related treatment decisions should be a collaborative effort between a woman and her doctor.

  • Nearly two-thirds of the women surveyed (65 percent) say treatment-related decisions are left up to them.

Demographic Differences
Women of different ages and ethnicities experience menopause differently.

• Women between the ages of 45 and 49 were more likely to report severe symptoms than older women (between the ages of 50 and 59).
• African-American (44 percent) and Hispanic (56 percent) women say they are very concerned about bone loss (osteoporosis) as compared to other women.
• Hispanic women were more likely than other women to report that menopausal symptoms negatively affect their work relationships.
• Asian women are less likely to report night sweats, and more likely to report vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.

Symptom Severity Differences
Based on reports from respondents, women's menopausal symptom experiences can be classified into three categories of severity.

  1. Severe — Seventeen percent report severe symptoms, which greatly impact their daily lives: 43 percent of women in this category say their symptoms put a strain on their relationships with family and friends; 60 percent report that they feel moody, irritable, and are subject to crying; and 74 percent report decreased sex drive.

  2. Moderate — Thirty-four percent report moderate symptoms, which impact their daily lives: 40 percent report that they feel moody, irritable, and are subject to crying; and 48 percent report decreased sex drive.

  3. Mild — Forty-nine percent report mild symptoms: their symptoms have only a slight impact on their daily lives, but the majority (61 percent) say they experience hot flashes. While women who report mild symptoms say they are satisfied with their doctor's advice regarding menopause (88 percent), that reported satisfaction declines for women with severe symptoms (67 percent).

Source: National Consumers League - Newswise

More about menopause symptoms around the Web:

 

Severe menopause symptoms - Here's a good, general overview of the most severe symptoms including panic attacks, severe headaches, sleep deprivation, and risk of joint pain and osteoporosis. Also check out a wealth of related resources including medical and alternative treatments.

Menopause Health Center - from WebMD.

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