Osteoarthritis, the most common degenerative joint disease, is predominantly a disease of aging. Typically, weight-bearing joints, including the knees, hips, and feet, are affected. Aside from aging, important risk factors are obesity, significant joint injury, and overuse. Even though there is no way to prevent or cure osteoarthritis, maintaining ideal weight and exercising to strengthen muscles have been shown to provide pain relief. A wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription therapies are also available to alleviate pain. It’s a good idea to consult your healthcare provider, however, to rule out rheumatoid arthritis, a more serious autoimmune disease of the joints.
The common forms of hair loss after menopause are diffuse shedding and “female pattern hair loss,” which typically starts with a widening center part, and the loss is mainly at the top and crown (upper back) of your head. Diffuse shedding usually resolves on its own within 6 months. Why women experience female pattern hair loss is not well understood, but a shift in the balance between estrogen and androgens (male hormones) may be one cause. Nutrition and thyroid disease or other medical conditions may also cause hair loss. Talk to your healthcare providers about what the cause may be in your case. You may need to see a dermatologist. You can support healthy hair by eating a healthy diet low in red meat and calories and rich in zinc, iron, vitamin D, and biotin and taking a daily multivitamin. Treatments your healthcare providers may recommend may be aimed at suppressing androgens (with minoxidil-containing scalp treatments or shampoos or with prescription drugs), or they may recommend other prescription medications or antidandruff shampoos containing zinc or ketoconazole.
After menopause, some women report chronically dry and scratchy eyes, often along with light sensitivity, blurred vision, or swollen or reddened eyelids—a condition called chronic dry eye. Tearing can also be a symptom, because the eye produces more watery tears to compensate, although these tears don’t lubricate the eyes the way healthy tears do. Sometimes, the condition is caused by certain diseases (such as Sjögren’s syndrome) or drugs (such as allergy medications and antidepressants). Consult your eye care team about what may be the cause in your case and the therapies available to help provide relief. In mild cases, over-the-counter artificial tear drops or gels can help. Drinking more water and taking omega 3 supplements may also be beneficial. More severe cases may require plugging tear ducts to keep tears in the eyes longer or prescription medication.
Your dental health and the health of your bones are closely related. So, although problems with teeth and gums may be more common at and after menopause, don’t think of them as “normal.” With bone loss, the tooth sockets in your jaw deteriorate, leading to receding gums and exposing the roots, which makes you sensitive to cold. Take good care of your teeth and your bones. Get regular dental checkups, and follow your dentist’s advice about flossing, brushing, and rinsing. And talk to your doctor about bone health.
You do. Although many women think of heart disease as a man’s disease, the number one killer of women in North America is cardiovascular disease, that is, diseases of the heart and circulatory system. After age 55, more than half of all the deaths in women are caused by cardiovascular disease. Risk for this disease increases after menopause. Be sure to talk to your healthcare team about what your risks are and how you can reduce them.
Osteoporosis is a loss of bone strength that makes you vulnerable to broken bones. Although women start losing bone in their 30s, the process speeds up after menopause. Osteoporosis is called “silent,” that is, you may not know you have it until you have a broken bone. Testing for osteoporosis with a bone mineral density test is usually recommended for women at age 65. If you are younger than 65 and have what’s called a “fragility fracture,” that is, a bone break typical of weakened bones (often in the wrist), that indicates you have osteoporosis. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk of osteoporosis and what you can do to help keep your bones strong, especially with good nutrition and exercise.
The North American Menopause Society maintains a search feature on this Web site for those women in the United States or Canada who are searching for physicians and other healthcare providers interested in helping them manage their health through menopause and beyond. Those who have passed a competency examination leading to the prestigious credential of NAMS Menopause Practitioner are noted in the displayed results.
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