JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A few years have passed since Deidra Radel was a young woman proudly wearing her Navy uniform. As a mom and wife, her life was going great.
Then-- in her early 40s -- she found herself stuck with the awful symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes. Night sweats. Draining fatigue. Radel went to a doctor in South Florida and was given a type of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), which went under her skin.
"It was terrible! I looked like a teenage boy," she said. She actually took selfies of all the acne that hit her to document the bad results of the HRT.
"I wanted to cry," she says.
Turns out she got an incorrect mix of hormones in her HRT, but the experience was so bad Radel figured she would just deal with her symptoms and never try HRT again.
Then she heard about an internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Dr. Jackie Thielen. She came to Jacksonville from Mayo Rochester as an expert on women's health issues. Radel had a long meeting with Thielen, and she wound up taking a customized treatment of HRT.
Does she have any symptoms at all now? Hot flashes? Fatigue? Horrible night sweats?
"No. No. No!" Radel said. She's back to full steam with her family. In fact, she agreed to share her story to encourage other women to talk with their doctors and not just suffer from menopause.
The message to all women? In Thielen's words: "Women do not have to suffer in silence."
Here are some facts about menopause from Thielen:
- What is menopause?
When a woman goes 12 consecutive months with no periods
- The average age for menopause is 51 to 52 years old
"But really menopause can occur between ages 40 and 58," Thielen said. "A woman can experience symptoms leading up to the actual menopause for years."
- HRT can spare you some serious long-term health issues, such as a higher risk for osteoporosis, changes in cognitive thinking, mood issues and potential trouble with cardiovascular health.
Thielen points to current research that says some women need estrogen or some form of HRT early on after menopause to cut down their risk of medical troubles.
- Don't be scared from all the bad publicity of HRT
Thielen says a study, which hit the news in 2002, made women and some doctors frightened of HRT. She says the bad rap continues. "We're trying to change that," Thielen said.
- Ask your doctor about HRT. It's not for every woman
Some women may need to avoid HRT. Those may include particular forms of breast cancer. Women with a certain history of blood clots may need to steer clear as well but even in those cases there could be safe ways to take HRT.
- Ask your doctor about current treatments you may not know about
For example, Dr. Thielen says anti-depressants are showing solid results in stopping hot flashes. It doesn't mean you're depressed. "It's all about brain chemistry," Dr. Thielen says.
A Woman's Health Specialty Center will open this spring at Mayo Clinic in Florida. It will provide a team approach for the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of women's unique needs. Those include:
- Women's Preventative Wellness Exams
- Menopause and Sexual Health
- Cardiovascular Health
- Breast Health