Archive for the ‘migraine’ Tag

Hypothyroidism, The Many Myths by Kenneth Blanchard, M.D.   1 comment

THE MANY MYTHS OF hypothyroidism
By Kenneth Blanchard, M.D.

Read the transcript of Dr. Kenneth Blanchard (coming soon!)

blanchardchatThyroid disorders are extremely common and, in my opinion, are often undiagnosed or poorly treated due to a total reliance on laboratory testing and some-long standing but fundamentally flawed principles of treatment. Of the many standard teachings in this area, I believe the most common mistake physicians make in every day practice is to “rule out” hypothyroidism on the basis of laboratory tests .alone, especially use of the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test. There are few teachings in medicine more sacrosanct than an elevated TSH test as the “gold standard” for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. I believe that there are millions of patients (mostly women) who would benefit from thyroid hormone but who are not treated because of results from this test.

A common story in popular magazines is “The Diagnosis your Doctor Will Probably Miss”. The story is that many individuals (mostly women) with symptoms like fatigue, depression, muscle aching, constipation, etc., see a physician who orders a T4 test and, on the basis of this, are told that hypothyroidism has been “ruled out”. The “smarter physician” also orders a TSH test because this is more sensitive and often reveals an abnormality even when T4 results are normal. While this scenario can happen, I believe it is far more common to find both T4 and TSH tests registering normal in the face of significant clinical hypothyroidism. In my practice, if the medical history and physical findings are highly suggestive of hypothyroidism, patients are treated with a therapeutic trial of the hormone and the results are overwhelmingly positive. As of early 2001, opinion in this field is still that the TSH test is absolute, although the upper limit of normal has been questioned, which is starting to include more individuals in this diagnosis.

Another common teaching that I believe to be fundamentally wrong is that all treatment should be done with 1OO% T4 hormone L-thyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl, etc.). The normal secretion of the thyroid gland contains small amounts of the T3 hormone (triiodothyronine) and I believe that giving some T3 is an important part of effective treatment for most individuals. The standard medical view is the T3 is unnecessary because T4 is converted to T3 in the body. But many patients taking the standard 100% T4 hormone report chronic fatigue, depression, menstrual abnormalities, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), restless legs and other complaints, and these complaints are almost always better when some T3 is added. This particular teaching in medicine has been breached by a paper appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999 in which patients on standard 100% T4 were given some T3 and all patients felt better mentally and physically. The use of T3 has been standard in my practice since 1990 and I am quite sure it will be routine in the near future, although many physicians at this point still do not use T3 in addition to T4.

Thyroid hormone activity has a variety of complicated interactions with other hormones. For instance, I believe that thyroid hormone treatment is effective in PMS (premenstrual syndrome) despite the fact .that there are major studies in the literature which say this is not true. It is most likely that PMS fundamentally represents a deficiency of progesterone production prior to menstrual flow, but I believe that normalization of thyroid deficiency enables the woman to make more progesterone, thus relieving the symptoms. The woman in her mid-forties who is just starting to have irregular periods and notices some hot flashes, sweats and sleep disturbance at night can often be treated simply by optimal thyroid replacement, specifically including some T3. While such symptoms are commonly regarded as estrogen deficiency and will respond to the use of estrogen, I find that many such women have normalization of symptoms on proper thyroid therapy alone. The fundamental reason for this may well be that normalization of thyroid function enhances estrogen production by the ovaries themselves and by, the increased production of estrogen in fat tissue from adrenal hormone precursors.

If a woman at this age has frequent migraine headaches that are clearly related to the menstrual cycle (essentially premenstrual), these will often respond to balanced T4- T3 treatment, again possibly because of raising and/or stabilizing levels of estradiol. While clinical depression is not an integral part of menopause, there are many issues at this time of life that can cause emotional upset or depressed feelings. Again, use the T3 hormone in a physiologic way can be very helpful. Indeed, much of the current use ofT3 is in the hands of psychiatrists, who. use it as an adjunctive treatment for depression that is not responding well to standard antidepressants. Although this can be extremely effective, psychiatrists tend to use pharmacologic doses rather then physiologic doses. In other words, they exceed the amount needed to reproduce normal hormone balance. For virtually every purpose, a physiologic dose is desirable since excessive doses yield no additional benefits. I also disagree with the use of Armour thyroid by itself for the same reason, that it does not contain a physiologic balance of T4 to T3. The human thyroid produces roughly 95% T4 and 5% T3. Armour thyroid is an animal thyroid that contains 80% T4/20% T3. People who take Armour thyroid usually feel better for a short period of time because they were deficient in T3 but, after a period of time, the Armour thyroid will cause a T4-T3 imbalance at tissue level and a variety of undesired symptoms can then develop over time. One can get a better balance by giving some T4 with the Armour.

Some doctors are reluctant to prescribe (and some women reluctant to take) thyroid hormones in the belief that this will somehow increase the risk of osteoporosis. . I personally do not believe that there is good evidence for this, although my guess would be that excessive thyroid hormone does contribute to bone loss. Since there is no benefit in going above the normal physiologic levels of thyroid hormone, following the TSH result and clinically monitoring the patient will prevent overdose and resultant adverse effects.

Every organ system in the body is affected to some degree by treatment with thyroid hormone. I believe that the proper treatment of hypothyroidism with physiologic amount ofT4 and TI is critical in managing many complex medical problems at mid-life. If treatment is carefully monitored, there are no adverse effects. Management of hypothyroidism with T4 and TI is significantly more complicated than the standard 100% T4 therapy that has been used for the past 30 years or so. TI dosage must be monitored and altered precisely for optimum effect and this must be done by the use of compounded T3 time-release capsules. These are almost always made in units of 1OO capsules for practical reasons. Patients are initially seen every three months in order to adjust the dosage for the next prescription of T3. Another practice that will eventually become standard in this field is the adjustment of thyroid dosage for seasonal change, i.e., higher dosage in the colder weather and reduced dosage in the warmer weather.

Once dosage has been adjusted over 3 to 5 3-month visits and everything appears stable, visits are done at 6-7 month intervals. Patients must be ready to keep their appointments and take the medication exactly as directed. At the present time, there are many patients on a waiting list so that patients who drop out of the treatment plan fall back to the end of the list. Patients who have difficulty with the practices outlined above should stay with their current therapy.

By Power-Surge guest:
Kenneth Blanchard, M.D

Read the transcript of Dr. Kenneth Blanchard (coming soon!)

Read the Power Surge disclaimer

Menopause and Migraine Headache, What are they and how can they be treated?   Leave a comment

MIGRAINE HEADACHE

What is it?

A common symptom of perimenopause is increased headaches and often debilitating migraines.

A migraine headache is a recurrent, throbbing headache generally felt on one side of the head. Migraines usually begin in early childhood, adolescence, or young adult life.

What causes it?

Migraines are caused by a rapid widening and narrowing of blood vessel walls in the brain and head. This causes the pain fibers in the blood vessel wall to become irritated. Blood vessels in the scalp are often involved. The following items and events (precipitants) have been reported to cause migraine attacks:

  • Hunger
  • Cheese
  • Changes in weather
  • Nuts
  • Fatigue
  • Avocados
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Chocolate
  • Menstrual periods
  • Menopause
  • Foods cured with nitrates (e.g., hot dogs)
  • Emotional stress
  • Meat tenderizers (e.g., MSG)
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • It is not known why some individuals have migraines and others do not.

What are its common symptoms?

There are many forms of migraine headaches. The classic migraine and the common migraine are the two main types:

CLASSIC MIGRAINES — There is usually a warning (aura or prodrome) of an approaching headache attack. Eyesight may suddenly change. Bright spots or zigzag lines are seen. Many people experience double vision or temporary, partial blindness. The change in eyesight is often followed by numbness and tingling of the lips, face, hands (on one or both sides), weakness of an arm or leg, dizziness, unsteadiness in walking, drowsiness, slight confusion of thinking, and inability to speak or slurred speech. Any given person may have only one or a few of these symptoms, and they tend to occur in the same combination in each attack. The symptoms may last for 5 to 15 minutes or more. As these symptoms disappear, a throbbing headache begins on one side of the head. The severity of the headache builds. Once the headache becomes very painful, people often have nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.

COMMON MIGRAINES — A throbbing headache begins suddenly without warning of an attack. The location of the headache varies. The pain may be on both sides of the head, or it may shift from side to side. Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise usually accompany the headache. Children who have migraines experience mostly common migraines and, therefore, do not have any warning. In addition to the headache, some children experience abdominal pain, which gets better after vomiting.

Is it contagious?

No.

How long will it last?

Migraines can last from a few hours up to several days.

How is it treated?

Treatment for this problem consists of two important parts:

  1. What you can do, and
  2. What your health care provider can do.

What can you do?

There are many measures you can try to reduce the pain :

  1. Some people find relief by applying heat to the area of the head where the pain is most severe. Apply heat in the form of a dry towel warmed in the oven or use a heating pad set on a low setting. Other people gain relief by applying an ice bag wrapped in a towel to the painful area.
  2. Lying down in a dark, quiet room at the first sign of an attack may also decrease the pain.
  3. Many people find a relaxation technique helpful when they are lying down.
    Concentrate on a soothing thought or image and take slow, deep breaths.
  4. Dearest Recommendations: Try breathing into a small paper bag when in the throes of a migraine, or when you feel one coming on. The paper bag cuts down on the oxygen (organ stimulant), and increases the carbon dioxide intake during inhalation (organ relaxant). Inhale/Exhale for about 30 seconds to one minute. It has served me well during severe headaches/migraines, as well as during anxiety ridden moments – such as holiday shoppingAnother recommendation for treating migraines is to take 500 mg. of magnesium at the first onset of a migraine.
  5. Record on a calendar the date of the migraine, the time it started and ended, and the amount of medication you took. Remember to bring this record with you on follow-up visits to your health care provider. It will help in your treatment.

What can your health care provider do?

Medications are needed by some individuals. Your health care provider may prescribe one or more of the following medications.

  • Analgesics — These medications reduce the pain of a migraine.
  • Ergotamine preparations — These medications interfere with the widening of the blood vessels in the head and decrease the pain of migraines. Note: To enable your body to use most of the medication, it is important to take the medicine at the first sign of an attack. Special arrangements are necessary for school-age children to allow them to take the needed medicine in school.
  • Other medications — Biofeedback is another method being used successfully by some people to reduce migraine attacks and their severity. Your health care provider may refer you to a specialist in biofeedback therapy.

Can you prevent it?

Because migraine headaches may recur for years and constant use of medication can lead to serious side effects, prevention is a key aspect in the management of migraines:

  1. Pay close attention to your diet. See if a migraine can be prevented by avoiding certain foods (e.g., nuts, cheese, avocados, chocolate, bacon, ham, hot dogs, cold cuts) and tenderizers used in food preparation. If hunger precipitates a migraine, eat frequent small meals on a regular basis. Women who have migraines just prior to their menstrual period should lower the salt in their diet. This helps to decrease water retention associated with precipitating attacks. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes the blood vessels in the body to widen, which contributes to the pain of migraines.
  2. If stress or emotional conflict triggers the onset of a migraine, it is important to find ways to reduce the stress in your life. Regular exercise (e.g., walking, biking, swimming) and relaxation techniques (e.g., yoga, meditation) may help you. Exercise and relaxation not only reduce stress but, in addition, decrease the severity of the pain and frequency of the headaches. A trained counselor can be helpful in providing assistance to identify stresses in your life and to make suggestions to resolve the problems.
  3. A regular schedule for sleep is necessary if fatigue precipitates attacks.
  4. Fatigue may become exaggerated at times of weather change.
  5. Women with a history of migraine headaches should avoid oral contraceptives. Your health care provider can suggest alternative forms of birth control.

Common myths

It is a myth that only women get migraines. Men do suffer from migraine headaches. However, migraines occur in women about four times as often as in men. It is also a myth that all bad headaches are migraines. There are many causes for headaches. A tension headache can be as painful as a migraine. People who have head pain should have a medical evaluation.

Follow-up

It is important to return for your follow-up care as advised.

Resources

Call your local community center, YMHA, YWCA, or adult education program for information about classes in yoga, meditation, aerobic dance, or other exercise classes. A community mental health center can assist in an evaluation for stress and make a referral to a counselor for you.

Remember…..Notify your health care provider if you have any of the following:

  • Headaches that last longer than 2 days
  • More than 3 migraine attacks in 1 month
  • Warning symptoms of a headache that do not disappear when the headache begins
  • Marked change in the severity of the headache
  • Questions concerning the symptoms you are experiencing

Reference:

  1. Shamansky, S., Cecere, M. C., & Shellenberger, E. (1984). Primary Health
  2. Care Handbook: Guidelines for Patient Education. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
  3. This information has been provided to you via Med Help International (a non-profit organization).

Posted October 5, 2013 by MaryO in Educate Yourself

Tagged with , ,

The 34 Symptoms of Menopause – what they are and how to treat them   30 comments

MaryO’Note: Links are removed from this list


There’s been a list of the “34 signs of menopause” circulating for years. The list originated with Judy Bayliss’ wonderful newsgroup, The Menopaus Listserv (That’s Menopaus without the “e” at the end).

I’ve taken the liberty of adding my own Notes to the original list. You’ll find hundreds of articles pertaining to menopause symptoms, treatments and menopause / midlife-related health and emotional issues including articles on midlife relationships, weight and fitness issues, intimacy, psychological problems associated with menopause in Power Surge’s, “Educate Your Body” extensive library.

I suggest you begin with the comprehensive article explaining what menopause is: in “An Introduction To Menopause: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments”

You’ll find remedies for most of these symptoms on the Recommendations page.

Here is the list of: “The 34 Signs of Menopause:”

1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling (related to increased activity in the autonomic / sympathetic nervous system). Without becoming too, technical, messages are sent to the hypothalmus because of declining estrogen production via neurons which result in vasodilation — widening of the lumen of blood vessels (lumen being the cavity of a tubular organ, i.e., the lumen of a blood vessel,) which, in turn, causes flushing or hot flashes. Tips for treating/minimizing (and even avoiding) hot flashes: Power Surge’s Menopause Survival Tips. Also, read the Power Surges (hot flashes) Forum

2. Bouts of rapid heartbeat (related to increased activity in the autonomic / sympathetic nervous system)

Note: Along with rapid heartbeat (palpitations), women can experience skipped heartbeats, irregular heartbeats. These are generally normal vasomotor responses experienced during menopause – usually due to fluctuating hormone levels. However, if these problems continue, it’s always a good idea to be checked by your health care practitioner. An echocardiogram is a common procedure to tell the doctor what he needs to know about your heart. If your health care practitioner doesn’t suggest it, ASK FOR IT! Read the Palpitations, Heart Issues, Hypertension Forum

3. Irritability. Note: Along with irritability, a host of “anger” problems can develop during menopause. Just as a perimenopausal woman can find herself suddenly crying for no apparent reason or provocation, so can she find herself reacting to given situations in an angrier manner than she normally does. This anger can sometimes feel like “rage.”

Again, this is hormone-induced, but for some women, the anger can become inappropriate and a woman can feel like she’s out of control. There’s nothing wrong with seeking counselling to discuss these issues with a mental health professional. This is a challenging time of life and some objective outside help can be tremendously useful in helping a woman cope with all the emotions she’s feeling. Remember, menopause isn’t simply physical changes, but emotional and spiritual changes as well. There’s an excellent forum on the Power Surge Message Board that deals with the issues of Anger / Mood Swings / Rage.

4. Mood swings, sudden tears. Note: Mood swings can include anything from mood shifts (happy one moment, depressed the next) to sudden bouts of crying when nothing overt has occurred to cause the crying. Mood swings can and have been misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder because one can feel such extremes of emotions due to hormone imbalance. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even feelings of agoraphobia aren’t uncommon during menopause. The panic attacks often can develop with the onset of hot flashes. For some women, hot flashes can be severe and quite frightening.

5. Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats). Note: This can develop into insomnia or just waking at 2 in the morning for an hour. Relaxation and breathing exercises can be useful at this time — many women may log onto the Power Surge message boards and are surprised to find so many other women there in the middle of the night. More help on the Insomnia, Sleep Disorders Forum

6. Irregular periods: shorter, lighter or heavier periods, flooding, and phantom periods. Note: A phantom period is when you experience all the symptoms you’re accustomed to having before you menstruate — but… no period comes. This is a common experience during perimenopause before a woman’s period actually stops.

7. Loss of libido (sex drive). Note: Not every woman loses her libido entirely during perimenopause, although some may temporarily. Many women simply have a decreased interest in sex – often it’s simply because they generally don’t feel well and sex is the last thing on their mind! Also, bear in mind that there are many medications that can affect one’s libido, including the anti-depressants some women take to cope with the depression and anxiety associated with menopause to anti-hypertensives.

8. Dry vagina (results in painful intercourse) Note: Click here for an excellent article about vaginal dryness, sexuality and midlife relationships. Recommended: Sexual Issues/Libido Forum

9. Crashing fatigue. Note: I’ve never been able to determine if the “fatigue” associated with perimenopause is a symptom in and of itself, or if it’s a side effect of the cumulative symptoms and general exhaustion (from them) many women experience. Take all the symptoms and “dump” them on one person — is it any wonder perimenopausal women are so fatigued? If you can, try to find time to grab a nap.

One of the things that helped my fatigue, and it’s all chronicled in my personal odyssey to find remedies, is the use of considerable amounts of soy isoflavones and protein, which I found in R Soy. I can’t say that it specifically targetted and relieved the crashing fatigue, but it helped so many other symptoms and gave me a burst of energy, that I feel comfortable in attributing the fatigue relief to R. There are various vitamins, such as those in the “B” family, that can help with fatigue as well. Also, increased amounts of vitamin C. The Recommendations page lists numerous vita-nutrients that can be useful in treating fatigue and other symptoms associated with perimenopause.

10. Anxiety, feeling ill at ease. Note: One of the biggest complaints during menopause. Read the Anxiety/Stress Forum

11. Feelings of dread, apprehension, and doom (includes thoughts of death, picturing one’s own death). Note: It’s possible that this can be a manifestation of depression associated with menopause, or possibly feelings that come from going through daily discomfort through a difficult menopause transition that can last anywhere from 3-12 years.

A woman living under these circumstances can feel totally overwhelmed and frightened by the physical, psychological and spiritual changes. When there seems to be no reprieve from the suffering, for some it can leave them feeling drained wondering when and IF they’ll ever feel well again. It isn’t unusual for women at this time of life to have thoughts about dying. One phase of their life is coming to a close (not soon enough for many). There may be apprehension and fear about moving on to the next phase of life and wondering whether things will get better or worse. Helpful: The Panic Attacks / Disorder / Fear / Apprehension Forum

12. Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, & mental confusion. Note: Forgetfulness during perimenopause is often referred to lightly and humorously as “brain fog” but it’s not always funny. Note: An excellent article, Menopause And The Mind. Also, visit the Memory Loss, Foggy Thinking, Forgetfulness, Verbal Slips Forum

13. Disturbing memory lapses. Note: See #12

14. Incontinence — especially upon sneezing, laughing: urge incontinence (reflects a general loss of smooth muscle tone).

15. Itchy, crawly skin (feeling of ants crawling under the skin, not just dry, itchy skin Note: the feeling of ants crawling on your skin is called “formication”) Visit the Your Skin: Dryness, Itching, Vaginal Dryness, Disorders, Discomfort Forum

16. Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons. (may include such problems as carpal tunnel syndrome). Note: Osteoarthritis can develop during perimenopause – and those with existing arthritic and/or rheumatic pain may find it’s exacerbated during the menopausal transition. See the Joints Aches and Pains/Arthritis Forum

17. Increased tension in muscles.

18. Breast tenderness. Note: Breast swelling, soreness, pain.

19. Headache change: increase or decrease. Note Many women develop migraine headaches during perimenopause. However, if one doesn’t have a history of migraine headeaches, they’re generally a short-lived experience of perimenopause. Also see the Headaches, Migraine Forum

20. Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea. Note: For nausea, try some ginger or, as I use, boiling hot water with a few teaspoons of lemon or lemon juice concentrate in it. Many women also develop acid reflux (Gerd). For some, it can be an uncomfortable feeling of severe burning sensations in the throat. If it persists, see your health care practitioner.

21. Sudden bouts of bloat. Note: Bloating, water retention are common complaints during perimenopause. Also, Acid reflux and heartburn are very common during perimenopause. Treat them as you would if you weren’t going through menopause.

22. Depression (has a quality from other depression, the inability to cope is overwhelming, there is a feeling of a loss of self. Natural hormone therapy, ameliorates the depression dramatically). Note: There are various natural methods of treating depression. Read Power Surge’s Menopause Survival Tips.

Also, many women using progestins or progesterone supplementation experience “depression” as a side effect. Power Surge recommends only naturally compounded, bio-identical hormones. Naturally compounded estrogen and progesterone supplementation doses can be individually adjusted to suit each woman’s needs. So, if a woman is experiencing depression from progesterone, the level of progesterone supplementation can be reduced until the compounding pharmacist comes up with the right blend. The combination of estrogen and progesterone is important in achieving the desired results. Other remedies, such as St. John’s Wort can be very effective in alleviating the depression associated with menopause.

My personal experience was that my perimenopause-related depression was eliminated when I started using R Soy Protein. R is excellent for mood swings, but I was astonished by the impact it had on the hormone-related “lows” I experienced before using it. Also recommended, The Depression Forum

23. Exacerbation of any existing conditions. Note: Often, conditions women had prior to entering perimenopause become
exaggerated (worse) during the menopause transition.

24. Increase in allergies. Note: Many women who suffer from allergies develop worse allergies during the menopausal years. Many women who’ve never had allergy or respiratory problems may develop them for the first time. Many people don’t realize that histamine levels are affected by hormone levels. Women can develop wheezing, coughing and a host of respiratory problems. This generally disappears as the hormones level out once a woman becomes menopausal.

25. Weight gain. (is often around the waist and thighs, resulting in “the disappearing waistline” and changes in body shape.) A good read, Weight Gain and Fitness Issues

26. Hair loss or thinning, head or whole body, increase in facial hair. Note: There is often a loss of pubic hair during menopause. Many women are more comfortable simply shaving their pubic area instead of having patches of hair.

27. Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance. Note: Although common complaints during menopause, I always recommend anyone suffering from dizziness, dysequilibrium have her blood pressure checked just to be on the safe side. However, women can experience these symptoms during perimenopause without having hypertension.

28. Changes in body odor. Note: I wouldn’t be too concerned about this one. It can happen, but in 13 years of running Power Surge, I’ve heard of relatively few cases of developing body odor during menopause.

29. Electric shock sensation under the skin & in the head (“take the feeling of a rubber band snapping against the skin, multiply it (exponentially, sometimes) radiate it & put it in the layer of tissues between skin & muscle & sometimes a precursor to a hot flash.”) Note: Those buzzing sensations, as though you’ve put your finger into a live electrical socket, can be frightening. They’re all part of the hormones, nerve endings and electrical waves running through our bodies when our hormones are constantly fluctuating. Many women experience this during perimenopause, but it eventually passes.

30. Tingling in the extremities (can also be a symptom of B-12 deficiency, diabetes, or from an alteration in the flexibility of blood vessels n the extremities.)

31. Gum problems, increased bleeding.

32. Burning tongue

33. Osteoporosis (after several years)

34. Brittle fingernails, which peel & break easily.

Some additional signs from Dearest:

  • Internal shaking / tremor-like feelings. Read the Internal Shaking Forum
  • Acne and other skin eruptions
  • Itching wildly and erratic rashes
  • Shoulder pain / joints / arthritis development or flare up in
    preexisting conditions
  • “Heart pain” – a feeling of pain in the area of the
    heart (if persistent, get checked by your health care practitioner)
  • Acid reflux / heartburn / difficulty digesting certain foods

Some of the 34 signs may also be symptoms of one of the following:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Depression with another etiology
  • Other medical conditions (see The Educate Your Body Library)

If you have reason to believe you may have one of these conditions, see your healthcare practitioner for treatment.

Dearest

Note: Remember that although these may be common complaints during menopause, they might also indicate some other health problem. Be sure to consult with your personal health care practitioner before attributing these symptoms to menopause.

By Dearest, Founder of Power Surge   12 comments

alice-avatar“I repeat over and over on the site that any complaints a woman has during menopause should not automatically be attributed to the process of menopause. That’s an important disclaimer. In short, before assuming, not that you are, that any of the things you’ve mentioned in your message are associated with peri or postmenopause, you should be checked by a doctor you respect, trust and admire — one who listens to you and doesn’t just hand you a prescription to resolve your problems.

That having been said, let me tell you that during those “worst” years of perimenopause, I experienced SO MANY strange, inexplicable and, oftentimes, bizarre feelings in my body, I conjured up notions of having a brain tumor, Parkinson’s Disease, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Menniere’s Disease, a heart condition, paralysis, a potential stroke, glaucoma — have I left anything out? And I say none of this with humor.

Perimenopause is the singularly most uncomfortable time of a woman’s life. I’ve posted many times about the internal shaking. It’s been my nemesis and continues this day to plague me.

I had the facial tremors and buzzing sensations on a daily basis. The feelings were so strange, they almost defy description. No one could see it, but it felt as though I were having a stroke. I’d often experience numbness in my face and on my left side at the same time — a red flag would go up because I thought I was definitely having a coronary situation or stroke. Facial ticks, facial tremors, an electrical buzzing in the back of my neck and various parts of my body drove me to distraction.

The good part about this story is that most of those symptoms DO go away once you’ve been without a period for about a year or two. Those feelings, in the majority of cases, are due to the hormonal fluctuations your body is experiencing. Imagine turning the thermostat in your house up and down a dozen or more times a day. Your house wouldn’t know whether to turn on the heat or air conditioning.

Our bodies become very sensitized during this process. Feelings are frightening — we can walk around for days feeling vertigo/dizziness and/or a ringing in the ears (tinnitus). There were days I had to grab onto a bannister or railing for fear that I was going to fall over. My legs still pose a problem — becoming weak and feeling as if they’re not going to support me any longer. Pain in the feet, calves, shoulders, joints aching and paining often to the point of bringing tears to your eyes.

My suggestion to you would be to get yourself a thorough examination by your doctor. Have a blood workup, sugar test, thyroid, hormone levels, total lipid / cholesterol profile. Insist on an Echo cardiogram, not just a cardiogram.

Our bodies are composed of so many different types of hormones — not just estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Our bodies react to the constant ebb and flow of these hormone levels. Our central nervous system, nerve endings produce electrical impulses. Those electrical impulses are felt differently by every woman. Some women never feel them, while others are fraught with all sorts of strange sensations.

Once you’ve been given a clean bill of health by your doctor, the singularly most important thing you need to do during perimenopause is do relaxation techniques. Learn breathing exercises. Use the paper bag method (I call it “brown bagging it) I have described in many areas of the Web site and on these boards. I’ll provide a link to that at the end of this message.

Feed yourself affirmations every day that this, too, shall pass — that you are not dying — that although you feel as if your body is going to hell in a handbasket and you’re never going to survive this transition, you will. That, most importantly, there is nothing to be afraid of even though it feels at times like someone is holding a gun to your head and ready to pull the trigger.

Oh, Lord, would it were so that they’d find a way for women NOT to have to go through menopause. And, further, I am sick of hearing *some* people say that it’s all in our minds, or it’s our nerves, or if we had better things to do with our time, we wouldn’t think about it. I’ve never stopped being busy during this transition, but that didn’t ease the symptoms.

To those people, I say … until you’ve walked a mile in another person’s shoes, you can’t know what they are going through. Women in menopause aren’t hypochondriacs. I have to be dragged and feeling as if I’m not long for the world before I go to the doctor. Why? Because during perimenopause, I have learned… doctors don’t have answers to most of our questions other than to prescribe tranquilizers or anti-depressants or hormones…. and although some of these medications may help in the short term and to get you over the “hump” of perimenopause, most of them don’t work in the long term — or through the duration of perimenopause and it concerns me that there are no real long-term studies on these SSRI’s (anti-depressants).

If you feel you need to take something to get through this process, absolutely take it. Don’t make a martyr or yourself. However, remember, these medications only temporarily mask the symptoms. Learning ways to relax and cope with the changes you’re undergoing works far better over the long haul than anything else.

I have provided various relaxation and breathing techniques on this, the anxiety and the panic boards that can be tremendously helpful. The one I’d recommend is something I refer to as “brown bagging it.” It’s in various places of the site, but I’ll give you a link to my article after I’ve finished this message.

It has been my experience and I believe that of many other women who’ve passed through Power Surge over the seven years it’s been online that once you are in the throes of perimenopause, for about one or two years — perhaps a third (but not often), you will experience every conceivable symptom on the list of 34+ symptoms (* see below). I went through severe migraines and was *never* a headache person in my life. They lasted about a year or two – on and off, not every day, but they eventually stopped. I went through the facial tremors, buzzing experience as though I’d had my finger in an electrical socket. The migraines and severe palpitations, hot flashes, night sweats, crying and severe mood swings, horrific depression so much so that at times I would put my head on the pillow at night and whisper to God, “Please, if I have to feel this way tomorrow, let me not wake up.”

Those feelings — horrible as they are — don’t generally last for the full transitional period. They usually occur during the worst phase of perimenopause and only last about a year or two. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever experience them again in some milder form, but the severity and frequency will certainly decrease — and hormone therapy isn’t the magical answer. Many women using hormones still experience many of these symptoms.

Just remember that as long as you’ve been given the okay regarding your health by your health care provider, these are symptoms of menopause and, yes, I say symptoms. People have said to me, “Why do you call them symptoms? Menopause isn’t an illness.”

I tell them that I know menopause isn’t technically an illness, but seeing as how I have never felt worse in my life, I will not say that I am well.

I get very passionate about this subject and one of the reasons I’ve kept Power Surge an independent entity is because it allows me the opportunity to express myself without wondering who’s going to pay the bills if I tell the truth about the medical profession and some of the techniques of the pharmaceutical companies.

I will never get rich from Power Surge, but knowing that this community has helped so many women understand what they’re going through without just dumping medical abstracts at them and pushing pills on them has been the most gratifying and “freeing” experience of my life.

Finally, let me add my favorite words — THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS. Believe me, I thought in my heart I would never, ever survive perimenopause, but the internal shaking eases up even though it’s hell while you’re going through it. The palps will stop as well. It just takes time and a LOT of patience!

Be good to your body and it will return the favor in spades.

For the “brown bagging it” reference and many other helpful suggestions, check out the Power Surge Menopause Survival Tips article.

…and the ever useful…

* The 34+ Signs of Menopause

Dearest”

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