Unveiling Menopause with Dr. Karen Pike: A Q&A Session

What comes to your mind at the mention of menopause?” Do you perceive it as something scary? Does menopause mean the end of life to you? It isn’t as frightening as it seems to be. You have to live healthily, watch your diet, and understand your symptoms, and you will be fine. 

an elderly woman with gray hair reading a book

Photo by Ivan Samkov

When discussing or unveiling menopause, who could be more apt to speak on the subject than Dr. Pike? Before the discussion, here’s an introduction to Dr. Karen Pike. 

Dr. Pike has been associated with the medical field for a long time. If we were to talk about her association with menopause, well, it’s the lack of awareness among women that she realized that prompted her to work more on the subject. With this intention in mind, Dr. Pike created the website Simply Menopause to enlighten and help women globally about the different aspects of menopause. Look at the excerpts from the Q&A session with Dr. Pike about menopause. 

Interview with Dr. Karen Pike

We are incredibly delighted to have you, Dr. Pike, with us to discuss the different aspects of menopause with our readers.  You are doing a commendable job spreading awareness about menopause – the need of the hour. Let’s get started. 

Question: How aware are people about menopause? 

Dr. Pike: I thank you for allowing me to speak on a topic I never stop discussing and spreading whatever I know to as many people as possible. While interacting with patients, I realized that about nine of ten women had little or no knowledge about menopause. 

This unawareness was alarming. I was going across the findings of a study that stated that more than 90% of the female population wasn’t made aware of menopause in school. Approximately 60% of women began gathering information not before they experienced symptoms. In an online survey of 829 postmenopausal women, it was seen that 49% weren’t informed about menopause. About 62.7% of women described menopause as a nightmare or as an awful experience. 

With proper awareness, it will help women to know and understand menopause better and get rid of the myths and preconceived notions. 

Question: What is the average menopausal age?

Dr. Pike: This is a common question that women often ask me. The menopausal age varies from one woman to another and depends on several factors. Some of these include her age during menarche, the menopausal age of her mother, her lifestyle, her menstrual cycle, etc. However, if we mention the average age, it’s between 45 and 55. In the United States, 51 is considered the average menopausal age. In Asian countries, 48.75 is the mean menopausal age, whereas in Europe, it is 50.54. 

Question: Can you have menopause prematurely or early? 

Dr. Pike: Yes, you can. Menopause before 45 is early, and if you experience it before 40, that means you have had premature menopause. Around 5% of females experience early menopause naturally. Premature menopause affects 1% of females below 40 and 0.1% of females below 30. 

There are several causes behind premature and early menopause. These include conditions like POI (Primary Ovarian Insufficiency), the after-effects of cancer treatment, and even the result of any surgical procedure involving the surgical removal of the ovary/and or uterus. 

Question: What are the most common symptoms of menopause? 

Dr. Pike: There are no points of guessing that the most common, or rather known, symptom of menopause is hot flashes, seen in around 80% of menopausal women. Precisely, eight of ten women have hot flashes when transitioning into menopause. 

The other common signs include vaginal dryness, affecting about 50% of women, mainly during the postmenopause phase. We also cannot ignore sleep disturbances seen in 40-60% of menopausal women. Anxiety, depression, and stress are also quite common when women are transitioning into menopause or have already reached menopause. 

Another symptom worth mentioning is weight gain, mainly in the abdominal area. Digestive issues and urinary incontinence are also prevalent in menopause. 

Question: What are the lesser-known symptoms of menopause?

 Dr. Pike: If you thought menopause was only about hot flashes and night sweats, you were mistaken. There’s more to it. A woman once came to me with recurring ear issues. Upon diagnosis, hormonal imbalances were found to be causing them. She was around 50. This surprised her, as she never imagined menopause could affect her ears. 

Here are some of the lesser-known symptoms of menopause for you to make a note of:

  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Thinning of hair
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Cognitive issues
  • Dry mouth
  • Dental problems 
  • Change in body odor
  • Brittle and dry nails 
  • Dizziness and light-headedness 
  • Vaginal pain 
  • Dry eyes
  • Vaginal pain
  • Alteration in hearing
  • Tinnitus 
  • Palpitations 
  • Tingling or pin-and-needle-sensations 
  • Burning mouth syndrome 

I want to tell my readers the same thing I advise my patients. Whenever you have any of these symptoms or other health issues that prolong and disrupt your daily life, talk to the doctor immediately for quick intervention. 

Question: How do you manage the symptoms of menopause? 

Dr. Pike: Your physical and mental well-being during and after menopause depends significantly on your lifestyle. Each symptom of menopause has different management techniques. Yet, the common link is to eat healthily, keep stress to a minimum, and exercise well. 

For hot flashes, avoid trigger foods like a spicy diet, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol. Dress in layers to shed one or two of your clothing during a flash episode. Later, when the flash subsides and your body cools, you could wear them again for warmth. 

To cope with vaginal dryness, lubricate your vagina with proper moisturizers and lubricants to keep the tissues healthy. Avoid using any scented products as it could irritate your vagina further. 

For sleep issues, maintain a fixed sleeping schedule. Avoid afternoon naps and using electronic gadgets like mobile phones or laptops while preparing to sleep. Refrain from exercising or having large meals before going to bed. Ensure that your room has a comfortable temperature. 

Exercise well and eat healthily to manage your weight. Include strength training in your exercise regime. 

For healthy hair, stay hydrated, watch what you eat, and get a scalp massage often. Avoid using heat tools like straightening irons and hair dryers, as they could weaken hair and lead to intense breakage. 

Regarding skincare, moisturize your skin whenever it gets dry. Moisturizers containing glycerine or hyaluronic acid will help better. Use a mild cleanser instead of soap when washing your skin. 

If you have a metallic taste in your mouth that isn’t pleasant, hydrate your mouth. You can do the same by upping your fluid intake and even chewing gums (sugar-free). Try playing with flavors to improve your taste buds. Like, adding some maple syrup or a dash of lemon may be of help. 

Question: Can you reverse menopause?  

Dr. Pike: No, when you are of the menopausal age, or once your periods have stopped, there’s no way you can reverse menopause. It’s inevitable. However, by seeking advice from your healthcare provider and maintaining a good lifestyle, you could lessen the intensity and severity of the symptoms. 

Conclusion 

We hope Dr. Pike’s analysis of menopause will help you. As an ending note, she said, “ When you are aware of menopause and its effects, it enables you to cope better. The symptoms won’t last all life. They would go away in 4-5 years on average, depending on how you manage them and your overall health. If you are planning for hormone therapy to improve your symptoms, discuss the best option for you with your doctor. Lastly, to know more about me and my work, visit Simply Menopause”. 

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