Author Archives: Dr. Kelly Roy, MD

About Dr. Kelly Roy, MD

Founder and Medical Director of ARIZONA GYNECOLOGY CONSULTANTS Dr. Kelly Roy is a specialist in surgical gynecology and advanced laparoscopy (and hysteroscopy). She is a long-time resident of Arizona and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering at Arizona State University before finishing her Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1997. Dr. Roy completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the then “Banner Good Samaritan Hospital” (now Banner University Medical Center), in Phoenix Arizona in 2001. Well known for her teaching and surgical ability, she is on the faculty at the residency program at both Banner University Medical Center and Saint Joseph’s Hospital in central Phoenix and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Campus. Dr. Roy has taught advanced surgical techniques to medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues for over 15 years. Dr. Roy is also a consultant to the medical device industry and has participated in the design and clinical testing of many instruments and surgical devices available on the world-wide market today. Read More About Dr. Kelly Roy, MD   |   WebMD Profile   |   Health.USNews.com Profile

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 AZ Gyn today.

What Are The Signs of Perimenopause

What Are The Signs of Perimenopause?

This entry was posted in Menopause and tagged , on by .

Perimenopause is the stage before menopause, also known as menopause transition. As the female body begins to transition into menopause, it also produces less estrogen. This natural transition indicates the end of reproductive years, until eventually the female body no longer produces eggs. During perimenopause, women still have their periods, but the cycles’ durations can change, becoming longer, shorter, or skipped altogether.

Once a woman has not had a period in 12 consecutive months, perimenopause is over, and menopause has begun. The signs of perimenopause are a result of decreasing estrogen, and can be uncomfortable and unexpected. For women approaching menopause, it is important to understand what the signs of perimenopause are. Seeking the right professional counsel and treatment can help make your perimenopause experience more tolerable.

When Does Perimenopause Start?

The change of life that occurs with perimenopause is different for every woman. Typically, the process begins when a woman is in her 40s, but can occur as early as her 30s. Changes in the body due to hormonal fluctuations mark the beginning of perimenopause. However, the true beginning of perimenopause is at birth. At birth, every woman has the total number of eggs she will ever have in each ovary. During puberty, the body ovulates and prepares itself for reproduction. During perimenopause, the opposite takes place. As perimenopause takes place, the body has depleted its supply of eggs ending the natural reproductive cycle. It is important to be honest with your healthcare provider and loved ones if you feel you are in perimenopause.

How Long Does Perimenopause Last?

Perimenopause lasts until menopause begins, which is after 12 consecutive missed periods. In years, perimenopause typically lasts for four years, but some women may only experience perimenopause for a few months, or it may last up to 10 years.

Estrogen During Perimenopause

Changing levels in circulating oxygen throughout the female body are the direct cause of perimenopause. During puberty and a woman’s natural reproductive years, estrogen within the body rises and falls at regular intervals. Two hormones specifically control estrogen: follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH). Various amounts of FSH and LH control regular ovulation, causing the egg to fall during ovulation. Ultimately, this process is what causes pregnancy, but if pregnancy does not occur, the cycle begins again. Changes in these two hormones during perimenopause alter the cycle completely, until menstruation ceases to occur.

What Are Early Signs of Perimenopause?

Perimenopause might seem to happen unexpectedly, but there are early signs that indicate perimenopause. Symptoms vary among women, and never occur to the same degree. It is important for woman to be observant of their bodies as they approach common perimenopause age. Some of these early symptoms of perimenopause may include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Worsening premenstrual syndrome
  • Changing cholesterol levels
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Discomfort during sex
  • Urine leakage
Perimenopause

Women who are unsure if they are experiencing perimenopause should consult their doctor. A doctor can usually diagnose perimenopause based on symptoms alone, otherwise a blood test may be helpful. Blood tests will measure hormone levels, but while hormone levels are changing, it is common practice to take several blood tests at different times for comparison.

What Are Common Symptoms of Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a biological change in hormones, however common life changes due to aging also play a role in perimenopausal symptoms. A woman should understand what are the symptoms of perimenopause specifically, and differentiate between lifestyle changes such as children leaving, changes in careers, or death or illness of parents common at this time.

  • Perimenopause periods: Irregular cycles and spotting instead of a period characterize perimenopause periods. Changes in periods may include shorter or longer cycles, heavy or lighter flows, spotting, or skipping periods altogether. A change of seven days or more indicates perimenopause, while a change of 60 days or more indicates late perimenopause. 
  • Hot flashes: Most women believe that hot flashes are only characteristic of menopause, but they often begin in perimenopause. Hot flashes can vary from a slight feeling of warmth to an overwhelming feeling of consumption by fire, inside and out. A significant hot flash can induce facial and upper body redness, swelling, chills, visible perspiration, and even confusion. 
  • Decreasing fertility: Irregular ovulation inevitably means that the likelihood of conception and pregnancy decreases. However, even during perimenopause pregnancy is not impossible. Pregnancy is still possible until a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. 
  • Changes in sexual function: Significant changes in a woman’s body will often cause changes in sexual function such as lower sex drive and a decrease in arousal. Vaginal dryness and changes in bladder function can also contribute to changes in sexual function. Restoration of sexual drive should occur after perimenopause has passes. 
  • Nausea: Perimenopause nausea is a result of varying levels of estrogen in the body. When levels of estrogen are particularly high, nausea is highest as well. In some women, this may require rehabilitation through medication or other treatment. 
  • Loss of bone: Loss of bone is also known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a common occurrence as men and women age, but there is a direct link between decreasing estrogen levels and loss of bone.

These are the most common symptoms of perimenopause, but physicians do not consider all signs harmless. In order to rule out other conditions, a woman should consult her doctor if she experiences any other changes in bleeding, such as:

  • Heavy periods with blood clots
  • Periods that last several days longer than usual
  • Spotting between periods
  • Spotting after sex
  • Periods that occur close together

Any of these symptoms can be a result of other issues within the body not associated with perimenopause.

What Are My Perimenopause Treatment Options?

Perimenopause is a natural occurrence within the female body, but treatment is available for symptoms that get in the way of daily functioning. Doctors recommend improving general health and well-being through regular exercise and following a healthy diet, but other treatment options are available.

  • Hormone therapy: Hot flashes are one of the biggest concerns. Hormone therapy, in the form of pills, skin patches, gels or creams, can often alleviate the symptoms.
  • Vaginal estrogen: A vaginal estrogen cream applied directly to the tissue can help alleviate vaginal dryness, discomfort during intercourse, and some urinary problems.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants can help alleviate both mood swings and hot flashes.

Perimenopause occurs in all women, as early as their 30s or anytime throughout their 40s. If symptoms are mild, perimenopause may go unnoticed. Perimenopause has officially ended when a women has missed 12 consecutive periods, known as menopause. The most common symptoms of perimenopause include hot flashes, irregular periods, a decrease in fertility, nausea, and changes in sexual function.

Perimenopause is a natural occurrence within the female body. However, it is still important to consult your doctor when these changes occur. Specialists at AZ Gyn can provide early screening for women with low estrogen and treatment for perimenopause. AZ Gyn’s Gynecology Services and Minimally Invasive Procedures assist women towards attaining optimal health, including the treatment of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, enabling relief through compassionate, personalized care.

Cooling Cap for Chemo Helps Prevent Hair Loss in Cancer Patients

Cooling Cap for Chemo Helps Prevent Hair Loss in Cancer Patients

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

When you first hear the diagnosis of cancer, the mind poses a myriad of questions. First, you want to know all the options available in the treatment for the disease. What’s next are the corresponding side effects of each option and how they will impact your life, in the short- and long-terms. For many, the side effects weigh heavy on which course of treatment will be utilized. A common fear with cancer treatment is the potential for hair loss. And for the patients who prefer to keep their diagnosis a private matter, nothing could be more revealing than to lose one’s natural locks. The FDA announced its approval of a cooling cap for chemo that can prevent “hair loss” in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Let’s look at how hair loss happens.

Chemotherapy Induced Alopecia (CIA)

Many chemotherapies will target all cells in the body that divide rapidly. Along with tumor cells, human hair growth happens in the same way that cancer cells populate. This is why hair loss from cancer treatment, known as chemotherapy induced alopecia, can happen. To stop cancer, drugs need to be effective at apoptosis, or cell death. Unfortunately, cell death can also take root in the hair follicles. CIA is not a result from all chemotherapy regimens, as it depends on the type of drugs used, duration of treatment, and the manner in which the drug is administered to the patient.

Research has shown that CIA will begin within one to two weeks after chemo begins. Usually, within 90 days after the first days of cancer treatment, patients will have lost all their hair. The good news: It’s temporary.

Just as the body begins to restore and heal 30 days after chemotherapy has stopped, hair follicles seemingly return to life. Though it may take up to three months before new hair growth is visible, more than half of cancer patients who had chemo experience change to their hair. Some see a difference in color while others note the structure or texture has transformed into something new (coarse or fine, wavy or curly).

Why Putting the Freeze on Chemo Makes a Difference

Studies continue to take place to better understand why some patients experience CIA and others don’t. Scientists are looking into genetics as a precursor for CIA from chemotherapy.

For more than 40 years, the idea of cooling the scalp to help minimize the risks of alopecia has been considered and tested. Recent posts in the Journal of the American Medical Association “JAMA” show results in the use of such practices. And now, the FDA puts their seal of approval on it.

Cancer Patients Find Relief with Dignicap Cooling

In clinical trials, 66 percent of breast cancer patients treated with the Dignicap Cooling System during chemo infusions lost only half of their hair. Since chemotherapy generally affects “rapidly dividing cells” including hair follicles, both normal (hair follicles) and cancer cells are affected. However, the cooling mechanism in the head cap causes vessels in the scalp to constrict or “shrink”. This helps decrease the amount of chemotherapy going directly to hair follicles, thus preventing hair loss.

Compassion Matters during Cancer Treatment

At AZGyn, we take a more “natural” approach to healthcare. In the treatment of cancer, we provide our patients with a cooling cap (to decrease hair loss). In addition, we also provide “cold” mittens for hands and feet, reducing the chances of “neuropathies” (numbness and tingling in hands and feet) after receiving chemotherapy.


For a Safer, More Natural Approach to Cancer Care and Women’s Health
Call AZGyn (602) 358-8588

Could Your Endometrial Cancer Symptoms Turn Out to Be Something Else?

Could Your Endometrial Cancer Symptoms Turn Out to Be Something Else?

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

Endometrial, or uterine, cancer is the most common reproductive cancer among American women. In fact, over their lifetimes, women stand a 2.5 percent risk of developing endometrial cancer. The cancer also makes up just over 6 percent of all cancers in women.

With this level of prevalence, it makes sense that women should be especially vigilant to detect endometrial cancer early. However, some other conditions effectively mimic endometrial cancer. These conditions can cause false panic, or lead women to be less likely to believe endometrial cancer caused their symptoms.

What Is Endometrial Cancer?

Endometrial Cancer SymptomsAlso known as uterine cancer, endometrial cancer affects the interior of the uterus, the primary reproductive organ in women. Located in the pelvis, the uterus houses and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy. Its lining, called the endometrium, exists in two layers – the basal layer and the functional layer. During the menstrual cycle, the functional layer thickens to prepare to accommodate a zygote. It is then shed during menstruation if fertilization does not occur.

Endometrial cancer involves too-rapid cell growth and an eventual tumor on the basal layer of the endometrium. Other types of uterine cancer, such as uterine sarcoma, can occur on the other parts of the uterus but endometrial cancer is much more common. As a result, it is important to watch for signs of endometrial cancer.

What Are Some Signs of Endometrial Cancer?

There are numerous signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Some of the most common include:

  • Watery, blood-tinged discharge. Watery, bloody discharge apart from your regular periods or after menopause is the most telling sign of endometrial cancer. It is a classic, or cardinal, symptom that women should never ignore.
  • Any abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding. Nearly 90 percent of women with endometrial cancer experienced abnormal vaginal bleeding at some point before diagnosis. Abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding can encompass a number of symptoms:
    • Bleeding between periods
    • Bleeding after menopause
    • Non-bloody, unusual discharge between periods or after menopause
  • It is important to report abnormal bleeding, spotting, or any other abnormal discharge to your doctor, particularly if you’ve already experienced menopause.
  • Pelvic pain. Though pelvic pain is common to many other pelvic conditions, when associated with some other symptoms, it can be a sign of endometrial cancer.
  • Feeling bloating, a mass, or heaviness in the pelvis. Unusual feelings of heaviness or a mass in the abdomen can be a sign of a uterine tumor. However, this symptom is not common until endometrial cancer is more advanced.
  • Painful sex and urination. Pain during sex – particularly deeper, cervical pain – can result from endometrial cancer. Similarly, pain during urination can indicate other pelvic issues.
  • Unexplained weight loss. Unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of numerous conditions found throughout the body. However, in combination with other signs and symptoms mentioned above, weight loss can be the final piece to the puzzle when it comes to an endometrial cancer diagnosis.

What Other Conditions Can Mimic Endometrial Cancer?

A host of other pelvic and reproductive conditions can produce some of the same symptoms as endometrial cancer.

  • Conditions that cause abnormal vaginal bleeding. Most of the conditions commonly confused with endometrial cancer are conditions that also produce abnormal vaginal bleeding:
    • Menorrhagia, or regular, unusually heavy periods
    • Anovulation, where the ovaries fail to release an egg
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
    • Endocrine syndromes that affect ovulation, like Cushing syndrome and hypo/hyperthyroidism
    • Uterine polyps
    • Endometriosis
    • Uterine fibroids
    • Malformed arteries and veins
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Conditions that cause other symptoms mimicking endometrial cancer. Other symptoms of endometrial cancer, such as pelvic pain, pelvic masses, and abdominal bloating, can be caused by:
    • Vaginal infections
    • Cervical infections
    • Cervical polyps
    • Vasculitis
    • Vaginal fistulas
    • Urethral diseases
    • Crohn’s disease

It is important to determine whether these conditions are present before continuing with treatments for endometrial cancer.

Are You at Risk for Endometrial Cancer?

As with any other form of cancer, the presence of certain factors for endometrial cancer can increase your risk. It is important to note that the presence of one or even many of these risk factors does not mean you will develop endometrial cancer. Rather, risk factors mean you may be more likely to develop cancer.

Consider whether you may have any of these endometrial cancer risk factors:

  • Years of menstruation. More years of menstruation, whether due to early menstruation or later menopause, increases your risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Older age. Apart from years of menstruation, older women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer, especially after menopause.
  • Zero pregnancies. If you’ve never been pregnant, you are at increased risk of developing endometrial cancer.
  • Obesity. Obese women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer, possibly because body fat can alter your hormones.
  • Hereditary colon cancer syndrome. Otherwise known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome, or HNCCS, this syndrome increases your risk for multiple cancers, including colorectal and endometrial cancers.
  • Certain hormonal drugs. Tamoxifen, a hormonal drug used to treat breast cancer, carries a small risk of causing endometrial cancer. However, the benefits outweigh the risks in many cases.

What Should You Do?

You can avoid some of the risk factors noted above by maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise, and thinking twice about using hormonal therapies. In addition, many doctors suggest using birth control pills for at least one year. This alteration in your routine can result in years’ worth of risk reduction for endometrial cancer.

If you notice symptoms of endometrial cancer, it is important to inform a doctor right away. Endometrial cancer is extremely treatable if caught early, and the most common signs and symptoms appear early in the cancer’s progress. Although other conditions may mimic some of these symptoms, it is best to seek an appointment with any of our knowledgeable practitioners at Arizona Gynecology Consultants. By determining what is causing your symptoms, we can pursue effective treatment.

Click, Then Scroll to Find an AZGyn Office Near You

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug on the planet, and women face a significant risk of developing breast cancer from overconsumption of alcohol. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women all over the world*, and a new study out of Australia confirms the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk.

The Link Between Alcohol And Breast Cancer

Researchers from Flinders University in Australia recently reported that breast cancer accounts for more than 13% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia and more than 28% of all new cancer diagnoses in women**. One of the most troubling findings from the studies done to reach this conclusion is the fact that many women do not understand the severity of the risk posed by alcohol consumption and how alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and other serious health conditions. Among women ages 45 to 64, alcohol consumption rates appear to be rising in tandem with alcohol consumption rates.

Understanding The Risks

1 in 8 Women will be diagnosed breast cancer in their lifetimeResearch consistently reports strong links between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, and women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week face a 15% increase in breast cancer risk. Cancer researchers also report that for every drink beyond three per week increases this risk by an additional 10%***. Young girls between the ages of 9 and 15 also face a significantly higher risk of developing benign breast lumps if they consume three to five alcoholic drinks per week. Drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer returning in women who received early-stage breast cancer diagnoses.

Drinking alcohol increase estrogen levels in the body. This inherently means that alcohol increases the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, like breast cancer. Although some medical research indicates that one alcoholic drink per day can actually help prevent some medical problems like heart disease, this comes with a tradeoff of increasing the risk of developing other health problems. Remember, this applies to all forms of alcohol. It does not matter if you prefer beer, wine, or hard liquor; any type of alcohol consumption will invariably increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Alcohol consumption also causes other medical issues that can make it harder for your body to fight cancer. For example, alcohol is hard on the liver, and people who consume alcohol face a greater risk of developing liver diseases. Alcohol can also interrupt brain function, immune system effectiveness, and digestive functions. Ultimately, drinking causes countless health problems, and any suggested health benefits of daily drinking fall very short of offsetting the potential damage it can cause.

Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

Some women are naturally predisposed to developing breast cancer, but any woman can reduce her risk by limiting alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a deeply ingrained part of social life in the United States, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere in the world, but that does not mean you must make it a part of your social life.

Taking a few proactive steps to reduce your alcohol consumption can dramatically lower your risk of developing breast cancer or prevent breast cancer from returning after an early-stage diagnosis and treatment.

  • Proactively limit your alcohol intake. You do not have to give up drinking entirely, but limiting yourself to one or two drinks per week would minimize the increased risk of breast cancer alcohol consumption presents.
  • Abstain from alcohol entirely. While some claim that a glass of red wine each day can improve blood pressure and bolster heart function, there really is no medical benefit to consuming alcohol. Abstaining entirely is the best way to limit your risk of breast cancer, but social pressures can make this difficult for many women.
  • If you know that certain situations encourage you to drink, try to mix up your routine and find new ways to enjoy your leisure time without drinking. Consider reaching out to make new friends or explore a new hobby you have always wanted to try.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Alcohol can wreak havoc on the body, and this happens more acutely in those with poor dietary habits.
  • Seek substance abuse treatment if you think you have developed a drinking problem. Accepting the fact that you need help can be an incredible challenge, but the sooner you address a drinking problem and receive treatment, the sooner you can start making healthier life choices and minimizing your risk of breast cancer and other medical complications.
  • Exercise daily. Even a few minutes of moderate exercise each day can improve your overall health and help prevent different types of cancer.

These are just a few steps you can take to limit the risk of alcohol consumption leading to major medical problems like breast cancer.

Finding Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Due to alcohol’s place in society, many people may find it very difficult to admit to a drinking problem. High-functioning alcoholism is incredibly common today, and this type of alcoholism describes a person who seemingly has his or her life in order while maintaining an alcohol abuse disorder. Eventually, this type of lifestyle will not last, and the individual will need to make significant changes before alcoholism consumes his or her life entirely. Admitting the need for treatment is the first step toward recovery, and the rehab experience can be incredibly beneficial in more ways than just helping you quit drinking. The skills and coping techniques learned in rehab can apply to other areas of life, helping a person cultivate new friendships and healthier habits that contribute to a healthier, safer lifestyle.

The added benefit of seeking alcohol addiction treatment is that quitting drinking will lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about how your alcohol consumption habits could be negatively impacting your health, and do not be afraid of reaching out to ask for help on the road to recovery.

You Should Know These 5 Facts About Birth Control

You Should Know These 5 Facts About Birth Control

Estimates state that more than 99% of the country’s women aged 15 to 44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used some form of birth control. It’s well past time for a frank discussion on some of the lesser-known facts about birth control every woman should know.

  1. There Is A Wide Variety Of Birth Control Methods

Birth control these days is about more than just the pill and condoms; in fact, a wider variety of options exists than ever before, with over a dozen methods approved for use in the United States alone. Here’s a look at some of the most popular, non-permanent methods:

  • Birth Control Pill

    The birth control pill has long been the most popular method of hormonal birth control for both teenage girls and women. It’s effective when women use it correctly, and can offer positive hormonal side effects for many, such as lightened menstrual periods and their associated pain.

  • Male Condom

    Condoms are the only method that also provides some protection against sexually transmitted infections. This barrier method of birth control has the added benefit of producing almost no side effects for women not allergic to latex.

  • IUD

    Both medicated and copper IUDs provide a barrier to implantation of an embryo into the uterine lining, while the medicated IUD also prevents sperm from reaching the egg, making it even more effective at preventing pregnancy without much chance of user error.

  • Injectable

    Commonly known as “the shot,” injectable methods of birth control feature a hormonal shot when, if given on the proper schedule, prevents pregnancy for up to three months at a time.

  • Other Methods

    Several other methods of birth control exist, though less than two percent of the population uses them. Options include vaginal rings, implants, patches, emergency contraception, barrier methods such as the female condom and diaphragm, and spermicidal methods like vaginal jelly and foam.

What is the preferred form of birth control in your state? Find out here.

 

  1. Most Women And Teenage Girls Aren’t Utilizing The Most Effective Methods

    Most women between 15 and 44 aren’t using the most effective methods of birth control. In fact, the most popular method used by family planning providers is the IUD, though only about seven percent of all women in the US use it. Health care professionals also suggest it for teenage girls for its long-term efficacy, zero chance of user error, and reversibility. Once women receive education about all the methods available to them, over 75% chose the IUD, a drastic increase from the national average.

  1. Different Methods Have Different Side Effects

    Chances are you’ve heard a TV announcer read the side effects list of the advertised birth control method and wondered to yourself if all the side effects are really worth it. While it’s true that most hormonal forms of birth control have potential side effects produced by the different hormones used – and their levels – they have different, and even positive, effects on the user. Combined hormone methods utilize estrogen and progestin, and tend to have a slightly more pronounced signs and symptoms, at least at first. Progestin-only methods skip the estrogen, a trade-off that minimizes hormonal side effects but slightly decreases the efficacy rate.

  1. The Side Effects Truly Are Minimal

    You’ve likely heard one friend or another citing the negative effects of her birth control method, including weight gain, irritability, and altered periods. However, for most women – that is, women without additional health concerns – most side effects decrease in severity and eventually disappear over time. The series of adjustments your body needs to make to incorporate the hormones involved will lessen, and weight loss is even possible at this stage.

  2. Find A Method That Works For You

    Of course, you shouldn’t stick with a birth control method that’s making you miserable – all the FDA-approved methods available in the US are effective and you have a wealth of options available. Try a hormonal method with lower levels of hormones, or an IUD without hormones. If you’re having trouble taking your birth control regularly, switch to a method with less hands-on time. The important thing is making your birth control work for you, so it can have its desired effect – pregnancy prevention.

Birth Control Isn’t Taboo

Birth Control As mentioned above, when more women learn about all the types of birth control available to them, they tend to make different choices that better fit their lifestyles. Discussion regarding your reproductive health isn’t – and shouldn’t be – taboo. Learn about the different methods of birth control that may work for you, and after you make your choice, research the side effects, risks, and how to properly use them.

Deciding when and if you want to get pregnant is one of the most significant health decisions you can make, and talking about your options with a women’s healthcare provider like Arizona Gynecology Consultants is a great first step.

Change Your Fitness Focus For This Summer And See Better Results

Change Your Fitness Focus For This Summer And See Better Results

Many women think of the winter as the time to start preparing for swimsuit season in the coming summer, but should looking good in swimwear be the main goal of a new fitness routine? Instead of focusing on looking better in a swimsuit this year, try making a few significant changes that improve your overall health, not just the way you look. In time, making these positive changes will have an undeniably positive effect on your overall health and wellness.

Choosing Wellness Over Aesthetics

Everyone faces tremendous social pressure to look as good as possible. Modern marketing leans toward showcasing models with “aspirational” body types, the type that usually demand hyper-dedicated focus to nutrition and exercise. The average person cannot commit hours each day to looking as good as possible, so focusing health and exercise goals around aesthetics is ultimately self-defeating. However, a few small but important lifestyle changes can have tremendous results that lead to looking and feeling great.

Overcoming Social Pressures For Swimsuit Season

Advertisements constantly bombard the average American from all directions. It can be difficult for some people to recognize unrealistic beauty standards, and overcoming social pressure to look as good as possible can be significantly more challenging for some women than for others. Whenever you decide to make better decisions for yourself, you should aim to improve yourself, not just to earn the admiration of others.

While role models and fitness ambitions can be good motivational tools, they may also lead to self-esteem issues. Avoid trying to model your looks around those of celebrities or fitness models who likely have expensive dietary counselors and personal trainers to help them stay in picture-perfect shape. Instead, look for personal motivations that are meaningful to you, such as being able to keep up with your kids while you chase them around the beach this summer.

Avoiding Unhealthy Fat-Burning Gimmicks And Fad Diets

Avoiding Unhealthy Fat-Burning Gimmicks And Fad DietsThere have been countless fad diets to come and go throughout the years. There are also thousands of supplements on the market that proclaim to boost your metabolism and burn fat with minimal effort. Be wary of these fads and gimmicks. While some fast fat-burning methods may offer seemingly good results in a short window of time, these methods are rarely healthy and more often than not cause more problems than they solve.

Despite the dangers of some trendy diets, others have gained traction due to their objective health benefits and consistent results. For example, the ketogenic diet (also called the “meat and greens” diet or keto diet) essentially requires avoiding carbohydrates and sugars and eating a diet high in animal proteins and leafy vegetables. The keto diet places the body into ketosis*, or the state of burning fat stores for energy instead of deriving it from ingested carbohydrates. This is just one example of a popular diet that is actually worth investigating, and it is flexible enough to meet various dietary restrictions like food allergies or gluten sensitivity.

Balanced Nutrition Is Crucial For Weight Loss

Exercise is a crucial component of any weight loss plan, but nutrition is even more important. Proper nutrition helps the body function better overall. Many Americans do not get the recommended amounts of essential vitamins and minerals from their daily diet, and no amount of exercise can replace these deficits. Vitamin deficiency can lead to increased susceptibility to muscle overextension or soft tissue injuries.

Cultivate Better Eating Habits

Start your summer fitness plan with a thorough review of your current daily diet. The vast majority of Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables each day, so consider this a good starting point. For one month, try to add one full serving of vegetables to your daily food intake. The next month, add one more. Within a few months you may notice you have adopted an entirely new eating pattern, and you should start seeing positive results sooner than you might expect.

Drinking more water is also essential to a healthy body. Nutritionists recommend 8 glasses of water every day to maintain your health. With exercising, more may be necessary to stay hydrated. Also, drink water more often to keep from unintentional snacking. You might be actually be thirsty and think its hunger. A few sips an hour should do the trick.

Creating better eating habits does not just mean knowing which foods to add to your diet but also which foods you should avoid. Try to limit alcohol consumption as much as possible and refrain from eating too many fatty, fried, or processed foods. Always opt for lean protein whenever possible and choose fresh vegetables over frozen varieties.

Expand Your Exercise Routine

Starting an exercise routine is relatively easy and can even be fun, but sticking to that routine can be a challenge. If you are committed to improving your overall health and fitness this year but find yourself dreading the next trip to the gym, consider an alternative to your usual workout routine. Instead of running on a treadmill, look for a local park or hiking trail for a new challenge. Look for community sports leagues and try out for a team. Arrange nightly bike rides with your kids. These are just a few examples of great ways to stay in shape outside of the gym.

You can also make small changes to your everyday routine. If possible, consider biking to work instead of driving. Take frequent breaks at work to stretch or even do a few desk workouts during your downtime. Whenever possible, opt to take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. These small changes mean more burned calories, and creating a daily calorie deficit is the key to losing weight.

A Caution On Calorie Deficits

A calorie deficit means you burn more calories than you consume in a given day. While the average daily calorie intake for most adults is around 2000 calories, it is always best to consult with a doctor about a healthy calorie deficit range. Too much of a calorie deficit can have serious negative health issues like a compromised immune system and diminished internal organ functions.

Ultimately, bucking the trend of social pressure to look good in a bikini is difficult for many women to overcome, but developing personalized health goals that focus on wellness over outward appearance is ultimately the better choice for any fitness plan this year.

The Importance in Raising Awareness of Endometriosis

The Importance in Raising Awareness of Endometriosis

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and everyone should understand the value of raising awareness of this medical condition. Although a large number of women develop this condition and it often entails severe adverse symptoms, endometriosis does not seem to receive as much public attention as other medical conditions. This March, take some time to understand this condition and do your part to raise awareness any way you can.

What Is Endometriosis?

EndometriosisEndometriosis is a complex condition that often results in serious and painful symptoms. Endometrium typically grows on the interior of the uterine walls and thickens, breaks down, and then bleeds with each menstrual cycle. When endometrium forms on the outside of the uterine walls, it can affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic organs in rare cases.

During each menstrual cycle, displaced endometrium tissue acts just like normal endometrium tissue. It breaks down and bleeds, but may not have anywhere to go. Thus, endometrium tissue on the ovaries can cause endometriomas or cysts to form, eventually leading to scar tissue. The surrounding tissues may become irritated and grow fibrous adhesive tissues that bond nearby pelvic organs together. This condition commonly causes severely painful menstrual periods and other symptoms. If left unchecked, it may cause fertility problems.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

There are several indicators that may increase a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis:

  • Never having children
  • An early menarche or first period
  • Late menopause
  • Menstrual cycles less than 27days
  • Exposure to or natural development of excess levels of estrogen
  • Low body mass index
  • Uterine structuralabnormalities
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Family history of endometriosis

Symptoms usually appear within a few years of a woman’s menarche, can pause during pregnancy and then disappear with menopause. The most commonly reported symptom of endometriosis is unduly painful periods, usually starting a few days prior to menstruation and lasting for several days. Women with endometriosis may also experience excessive bleeding, painful urination, bloating, or pain during intercourse.

Treatments

The first line of treatment for endometriosis typically includes medication. Certain types of hormonal birth control medications can help regulate the growth and processing of endometrium tissue and ease symptoms. Hormonal intrauterine devices can prevent pregnancy for up to seven years, but they rarely treat endometriosis symptoms for this long.

If hormonal treatment does not appear effective, surgery is the next line of treatment for severe endometriosis. A surgeon will attempt to remove endometrium tissue deposits and then continue with hormonal treatment following surgery. Over-the-counter pain medicines, holistic treatments, and lifestyle changes can also improve symptoms.

Common Problems Facing Women with Endometriosis

One of the most challenging aspects of endometriosis treatment is the difficulty in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Pain is subjective, and everyone experiences pain differently. A woman may complain of excessive menstrual pain during her periods, but her gynecologist may simply interpret this as the typical cramping and discomfort associated with menstrual periods.

According to an article published in Endometriosis News, some women have gone through 10 or more doctor visits before finally receiving referrals to specialists. Even more unfortunate is the typical wait time for an accurate endometriosis diagnosis — eight years or longer.

About 10 percent of women of childbearing age develop endometriosis, and while some manage their symptoms relatively effectively, this condition can cause a host of serious medical issues if left unchecked for too long. The most common of these related conditions is infertility. Endometrium tissue may prevent sperm from reaching eggs or even damage reproductive cells. Endometriosis can potentially interfere with any part of the fertilization and implantation process.

Failure to Address Symptoms

One of the most important reasons for raising awareness of endometriosis is to encourage gynecologists and other physicians to take patient complaints of related symptoms more seriously. From there, conduct more comprehensive screening procedures to catch endometriosis as early as possible and eliminate pain sooner than later. While this is by no means a rare or obscure condition, the symptoms are variable and often subjective, making it easy for a gynecologist to overlook or mistake for another condition.

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Gynecologists’ not taking patients seriously is just one obstacle facing women in need of accurate endometriosis diagnoses; it is also very difficult to detect with imaging procedures. In many cases, a physician must perform a laparoscopic surgical inspection to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis, and the thought of undergoing this procedure deters some women from reporting their endometriosis symptoms.

Since endometriosis can be very difficult to accurately diagnose and shares symptoms with other common uterine medical issues, some women must contend with misdiagnoses for ovarian cysts or pelvic inflammatory disease. Irritable bowel syndrome can also accompany endometriosis, potentially misleading an attending physician to a misdiagnosis for a gastrointestinal issue rather than endometriosis.

How to Raise Endometriosis Awareness

There are many ways you can contribute to the public discussion on endometriosis and expand awareness of this condition. Women who have suffered from the symptoms of endometriosis should consider sharing their stories with others to potentially encourage other women in similar circumstances to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Local events are also great opportunities to increase awareness. Consider taking part in endometriosis advocacy events, such as the Worldwide March for Endometriosis or EndoMarch, at the end of March or any of the events for Endometriosis Awareness Week during the first week of March. Check your local community events guide to see if there is anything planned.

Social media is another great way to share advocacy materials, personal stories, and helpful resources for women struggling with endometriosis. Viral trends and hashtag campaigns can get a lot of people interested in an important topic in a relatively short amount of time. There are also countless petitions you could sign aimed at reducing diagnostic times for endometriosis patients and increasing the availability of care.

Endometriosis Awareness Month is a great opportunity to engage in meaningful advocacy for a condition affecting millions of women all over the world. Considering the significant diagnostic challenges facing women with endometriosis, increasing awareness could potentially help women seek treatment before their symptoms cause serious long-term medical complications.