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MenoPause Blog

  • Eye spy: All about dry eye

    by Margery Gass | Apr 17, 2013
    My eyes are dry and burning — what’s going on? Dry eye syndrome is characterized by symptoms such as dryness, pressure, a sandy feeling, burning, scratchiness, light sensitivity, blurriness, or problems wearing your contacts.

    The continuous production and drainage of tears is important for eye health because tears keep the eyes moist, help wounds heal, and protect against eye infection. As women age, their eyes usually produce fewer tears. Studies in animals suggest that this is partly due to the effect of decreasing levels of hormones, especially androgens, on the lacrimal (tear) gland. When tear glands don’t work well, dry eye syndrome may occur. The eyes of affected women may produce even fewer or lower-quality tears and be unable to keep the eye surface lubricated, comfortable, and resistant to inflammation.

    How can I prevent dry eye? There are lifestyle events that might contribute to symptoms of dry eye. These include exposure to climates with dry air; looking at a computer screen or reading a book for long periods without enough blinking; wearing contacts that absorb fluids; and having laser eye surgery (which may interfere with the nerve supply and reduce the impulse to blink).

    Many medications may cause or worsen dry eye symptoms. These include diuretics, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, antidepressants, and tranquilizers. If you suspect a medication may be the underlying cause of your dry eye, be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider. It's possible that changing to a different medical treatment may be all that is required.

    Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and thyroid disease are associated with dry eye. It's also possible that allergies or other problems that cause eye inflammation may be the culprit. A complete physical examination will help diagnose and appropriately treat any underlying diseases or conditions.
    I’ve tried drops, cold compresses...nothing helps. A variety of therapeutic options are available. Some require consultation with your health provider but some you can do for yourself. Treatments include:

    • Eye lubricants such as drops or gels
    • Sterile ointments applied to the eye (typically used at night)
    • Humidifiers to increase moisture level in the air
    • Wearing wraparound glasses when outdoors
    • Avoiding windy or very dry conditions
    • Procedures that block the opening through which tears drain from the surface of the eye into the nose with collagen or silicone plugs
    • Anti-inflammatory medications such as topical cyclosporine (Restasis)
    • Topical corticosteroids

    It’s important to be evaluated and treated for symptoms of dry eye syndrome. If left untreated, your eyes could become ulcerated or seriously infected, or the cornea (eye's clear surface) can be scarred.

  • Physical and household activity improve sleep

    by Margery Gass | Apr 04, 2013
    Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy for women at menopause. Exercise may help, but women have tough time carving out leisure time for it. The good news from a sleep and exercise study published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society, is that higher levels of physical activity from housework and caregiving may be the more important key to a better night’s sleep for many women who have hot flashes or night sweats. It is good to know that an active daily routine can have benefits.
    Go comment!
  • Get a longer, healthier life when you quit smoking at menopause

    by Margery Gass | Mar 13, 2013
    Two recent reports in the New England Journal of Medicine brought bad news and good news about women and smoking at midlife and beyond. The bad news: women have nearly caught up with men in their risk of dying from smoking. Men and women smokers from midlife to their 70s have a risk of dying that is three times as high as women who never smoked. Long-term smoking cuts your life expectancy by a decade.

    But here’s the good news: quitting before age 40 erases most of the risk of early death. The risk of stroke and heart disease drop quickly after you stop smoking. (The risk of cancers drops more slowly.) Even if you are older than 40, you can still gain back some years. Quitting by age 50 buys back about 6 years, and quitting by age 60 about 4 years of the decade you’d lose if you didn’t quit.

    We know there’s good news about menopause and aging, too, if you quit. You may be able to delay the onset of menopause, since smokers reach menopause earlier, and quitting may also decrease your hot flashes. And if you quit, you will have fewer wrinkles, age spots, and less sagging than your smoking sisters the same age.

    Go comment!
  • Exercise your body to keep your brain fit

    by Margery Gass | Feb 15, 2013
    Midlife women just got another great reason to get physically fit: your brain will probably stay fit, too. Studies have hinted at this for some time. Now, an excellent new study makes a strong case. Researchers at a Texas preventive care practice looked at the treadmill test results in middle age for more than 19,000 of their older patients and also for any diagnosis of dementia in the patients’ Medicare records. They found that people who had higher fitness levels treadmill tests in middle age were less likely to develop dementia later in life. In fact, the men and women with the highest fitness levels were 35% less likely to have dementia than those with the lowest level. We don’t know yet exactly what the link might be between physical and brain fitness, but the study showed that it wasn’t just because the fitter people had fewer strokes. They also had less Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. So let’s get moving! We’ve got a great new reason.
    1 Comment
  • Earlier menopause for women with BRCA mutations

    by Margery Gass | Feb 08, 2013
    Have you been told that you have a mutation in the BRCA gene, which puts women at high risk of breast or ovarian cancer? If so, you may go through menopause earlier than most other women, and much earlier if you are a heavy smoker. Research the University of California, San Francisco, found that carriers of the mutation experience menopause at an average age of 50 instead of 53, which is more typical for US women. Women who had the abnormal gene and smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day began to go through menopause even earlier—at age 46. So if you have this mutation, you may want to think about completing your family earlier than you might otherwise have. Are you not sure whether you have the mutation? Usually, women who have it have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer. If you do, you may want to get tested. Some women with these mutations choose surgery, such as hysterectomy or mastectomy to reduce their risk of these cancers. You can learn more about these mutations and about when to consider getting tested from the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov.
    Go comment!
  • Take a walk after dinner

    by Margery Gass | Jan 29, 2013
    If you had high triglycerides at your last cholesterol check, your doctor probably told you to increase your exercise. Triglycerides are the type of blood fat that stores unused calories in your fat cells, and too much contributes to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Exercise is one of the best ways to bring those levels down, but your doctor may not have told you when to do it.

    Now, a little study from Japan tells us that exercising after a meal may be best. On three different days, the 10 participants did one of the following: took brisk walks and did some resistance training before the meal, took brisk walks and did some resistance training after the meal, or just rested after the meal. Compared with just resting, exercising before the meal decreased triglyceride levels by 25%, but exercising after a meal brought down triglyceride levels 72%—nearly three times as much! So make your dessert a walk. Try a walk after lunch or make a date for dinner and a walk.
    Go comment!
  • Q & A: vulvovaginal itching

    by Margery Gass | Jan 10, 2013
    Q: What can I do about vulvovaginal itchiness and hives?

    A: Dryness and irritation of the vulva are commonly related to menopause and can usually be easily treated with estrogen cream. Vulvar itching, on the other hand, has many causes, many of which are unrelated to menopause. A physical examination is needed to determine the cause of vulvar itching. In the meanwhile, be sure to eliminate all soap on the vulva. Just use clean water to bathe. From what we know about hives, it is unlikely that they are caused by the menopause. You should check with a dermatologist about the hives if they are not disappearing.
  • What causes hot flashes?

    by Margery Gass | Jan 10, 2013
    Researchers have made new discoveries about how hot flashes happen:

    A group of brain cells called KNDy (“candy”) neurons are probably the control switch for hot flashes. KNDy neurons respond to estrogen. When estrogen gets too low, these brain cells make more of a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that signals the body that it is too hot. The body then releases heat by opening blood vessels to the skin that cause flushing and sweating as a cooling method.

    Hot flash sufferers, take note: these insights will eventually help scientists create new and safer treatments for menopausal hot flashes. And that’s cool news.

    Go comment!

MenoPause Blog

We strive to bring you the most recent and interesting information about various aspect of menopause and midlife health. We accept no advertising for our website. We want you to have accurate, unbiased, evidence-based information. 

JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, NCMP
Executive Director



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