Dr. Christy Valentine answers some of our readers’ most recent health concerns, both personal and family-related, in her recent column and offers her advice. If you have anything you’d like to ask for next month’s update, feel free to email the doctor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm exhausted all the time and can't seem to get enough rest. Is this a symptom of something serious?
Fatigue is a common and bothersome condition that affects millions of people for millions of reasons. While it can frequently be attributed to easily adjusted lifestyle factors, it can also be a sign of something more serious when accompanied by other symptoms.
If you’re concerned your exhaustion is the result of an underlying issue, start making these positive lifestyle changes over two to three weeks and record your energy levels:
- Sleep – I cannot stress the importance of getting plenty of sleep every night to fight fatigue. Create a sleeping schedule that you adhere to, even on the weekends, so your body can become accustomed to waking up at a set time daily.
- Food – Eat wholesome, unprocessed foods; think of this as clean burning fuel for your body. Avoid big, heavy meals in the evening or late at night. Eating right before bed may cause you to wake up more often, or even have a hard time falling asleep.
- Drinks – What you drink during your day can really impact how well you sleep at night. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but avoid drinking lots of fluids an hour before bed. This will reduce your groggy, late-night trips to the restroom. Caffeine is both friend and foe. While three cups of coffee may seem like a lifesaver in the morning, they may be keeping you up at night. Give yourself a “last call” for caffeine daily - perhaps no more coffee after 3 p.m. Alcohol may leave you feeling relaxed or sedated, but an alcohol-induced sleep can disrupt the sequence and duration of sleep states.
- Exercise – Regular exercise will burn off excess energy and prep you for good night’s sleep.
If you stick to the tips above for a few weeks and still feel drained, it is time to talk with your doctor. Fatigue can be a sign of a number of conditions, especially if accompanied by dizziness, confusion, unexplained weight gain or loss, headaches or fever.
My mother was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. With an increase in preventative surgeries, if I elect to have a hysterectomy before menopause, will I experience it early?
To start, a hysterectomy is not a procedure to consider lightly. It is a major surgery and one that does involve several weeks’ worth of recovery time, limiting your activities and abilities during the interim. I assume if you are thinking about the procedure, you do not plan on having (any more) children; obviously, this is a major consideration when deciding if the operation is right for you.
Addressing your question, you are twice as likely to experience an early on-set menopause post-hysterectomy. This is majorly determined by whether or not your ovaries remain intact, as they regulate your hormone production; a hysterectomy involves the partial or full removal of the uterus, and not necessarily the ovaries. However, even if ovaries remain intact, a hysterectomy could trigger the start of “the Change.” Hormone replacement therapy for estrogen may be prescribed after you procedure to help with menopausal symptoms.
While it is manageable, early-menopause is something to be wary of, as it can increase a woman's risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and potentially other ailments. If you are considering a hysterectomy, speak with your doctor about why you want to undergo the procedure, and ensure this is the best solution for your needs.
How can I prevent getting Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and/or yeast infections from having sex?
UTIs and yeast infections are uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, but they are relatively common conditions in women. While sexual intercourse is frequently the cause of UTIs, both conditions are influenced by a number of factors.
Let’s start by clarifying what you are likely suffering from:
UTI Symptoms: pain when urinating, the urge to urinate frequently, abdominal pain, fever and nausea.
Yeast Infection Symptoms: thick vaginal discharge, burning or extreme itchiness in the area, painful urination, painful intercourse, soreness and/or a vaginal rash.
UTIs are infections of the urethra, bladder, ureters or kidneys, and account for about 10 million doctor visits each year. UTIs are obviously unpleasant, but if left untreated, can have serious health implications including kidney failure and death, in rare cases.
Most UTI infections are caused by E. coli strains that usually inhabit the colon entering the urinary tract. Sexual intercourse and poor hygiene make it easier for germs to enter your urinary tract. Reduce your risk for UTIs by urinating immediately after sexual intercourse, regularly drinking plenty of water, avoid douching (a common female misconception) and always wipe from front to back after using the restroom.
A yeast infection is an irritation of the vagina caused by excess growth of yeast. These are very common, affecting 75 percent of women at some point in their lives. Yeast infections are rarely caused by sexual intercourse but do share common symptoms with many sexually transmitted diseases, so always contact your doctor when you experience symptoms. Also, recurrent yeast infections may also lead your physician to evaluate you for a systemic illness, like diabetes.
To prevent these infections, avoid douching and scented hygiene products, change tampons and pads frequently during your period and always wear cotton underwear (rather than tight, synthetic undergarments). The most common cause of yeast infections is a weak immune system, so avoid stress, get plenty of rest each night and eat a balanced diet. Certain antibiotics and medications and hormonal changes related to your menstrual cycle can also make you more susceptible.