Menopause is commonly referred to as “change of life” because it marks the end of the menses and the primary functions of the ovaries. The ovaries cease to produce eggs every month. This means the woman involved stops experiencing monthly periods and can no longer bear children. The term “menopause” is derived from the Greek words “men-“ for month and “pausis” for cessation. It refers to the end of a woman’s monthly cycles.
Menopause results when the balance of a woman’s sex hormones changes significantly. The levels of estrogen decrease, leading to a cessation in the production of eggs. This sex hormone is important in the regulation of the monthly periods. The condition usually occurs when women are in their late forties. However, a number of factors may lead to early menopause, including smoking.
It generally occurs over a period of time as the woman gets older. In clinical terms, however, the condition is tied to a specific date, which is the day after a woman’s last menstrual flow. The date is generally fixed after the passing of 12 months without any menstrual flow.
The conditions associated with menopause include:
• Mood swings
• Night sweats
• Hot flushes
• Vaginal dryness
The hormonal changes make the women more prone to bacterial vaginosis. This is a type of vaginitis, which is a general term describing inflammation and infection of the vagina. BV is a mild infection caused by bacteria. It is the commonest type of vaginal infection.
Bacterial vaginosis occurs as a result of an imbalance between the “good” and “bad” types of bacteria. The good bacteria generally help to keep the bad ones in control and the resulting imbalance interferes with this process.
Smoking, which leads to early menopause, also increases the risk of bacterial vaginitis. Douching is another risk factor.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is generally associated with a thin and milky discharge that produces a “fishy” odor that tends to get worse after sexual intercourse. On some women, the condition does not show any symptoms and is only determined during a normal gynecologic exam.
Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis
Although BV is a mild condition that may disappear within a few days without any treatment, it may cause other serious problems. In addition, the conditions of menopause encourage its growth; hence treatment is important.
Many doctors treat BV by prescribing antibiotics that may be either in form of pills ingested by mouth or creams and capsules (ovules) inserted in the vagina. The postmenopausal women may also be given hormonal therapy using either progesterone or estrogen. Different forms of hormonal replacement therapies exist, including skin patches, gels and tablets.
A woman with an intact uterus may be treated with estrogen and progestin while the one who has undergone hysterectomy may be treated with estrogen only. Vaginal estrogen products may be applied topically in low doses to help with lubrication without increasing bloodstream levels of estrogen significantly.
For conditions that take unusually long, treatment methods may include laser therapy, electrocauterization and cryosurgery.
Lifestyle changes and diet also help in managing menopause and its related complications, including bacterial vaginosis.