Customizing Women's Healthcare for Different Life Stages
Women's health maintenance spans three life stages: adolescence, reproductive age, and menopause. Within each phase, females may encounter distinct symptoms and varying disease risks. Thus, adhering to routine medical check-ups as advised by a healthcare professional and promptly consulting a doctor when noticing unusual symptoms can aid in disease prevention and early detection.
Young Adult Health Maintenance
Adolescence; this pertains to females who have begun menstruation to about the age of 20. Generally, females in this age group are not prone to significant issues such as tumors or cancer. However, the most prevalent concerns during this period are
- Menstrual pain, which is a typical symptom at the start of menstruation. It can often be managed with medication. However, if the pain is exceptionally severe, seeking medical attention for a thorough diagnosis is recommended.
- Irregular menstruation, such as unpredictable periods. This is frequently attributed to hormonal fluctuations that haven't yet stabilized. The doctor may suggest an ultrasound for a more accurate diagnosis. If no abnormalities are detected, patients should monitor for symptoms.
- Early sexual activity; females engaging in sexual intercourse at a young age heightens the risk of contracting the HPV virus, which can lead to abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer. For those sexually active, doctors recommend receiving the HPV type 9 vaccination (Gardasil 9). This vaccine can prevent up to 90% of cervical cancer cases. Nevertheless, the most effective defense against STIs is condom usage, which offers protection against a range of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, Hepatitis B, gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc.
Healthcare for Reproductive Wellbeing
The reproductive age, which spans from the early 20s years until menopause (around the age of 50). During this period, various health issues can arise due to the body's production of female hormones and sexual activity. These diseases can be categorized into five major groups:
- Infectious diseases or sexually transmitted diseases, which are more likely to occur through unprotected sexual activity. Symptoms such as polyps, lumps, vaginal discharge, or discomfort during urination may arise. Consulting a doctor is recommended for treatment, advice on HPV vaccination, and advice on practicing safe sex.
- Non-sexually transmitted infections, such as a yeast infection, can cause itching and discharge. Tight clothing and excessive tampon use can contribute, leading to issues like bacterial vaginosis. Certain hygiene practices, such as vaginal douching, can lead to infection. Treatment involves oral medication and suppositories.
- Basic tumors, which can emerge in various areas, for example, uterine fibroids (myomas) or ovarian cysts such as chocolate cysts and dermoid cysts. Patients typically present with abdominal pain, heavy or irregular periods, or even symptom-free findings during annual check-ups. Treatment varies based on severity. Monitoring, medication, or surgery may be recommended by the doctor.
- Atypical or malignant tumors such as cervical, vaginal, ovarian, uterine, and fallopian tube cancers. For sexually active patients, doctors advise annual cervical cancer screening and HPV testing. This aids in detecting the pre-cancerous stage, enabling timely intervention and treatment. In low-risk cases, the doctor may suggest HPV vaccination and regular monitoring. For higher risk cases, treatments such as cryotherapy, thermal ablation, or cervical cauterization may be used to prevent progression to cancer. Additionally, blood tests and ultrasounds can aid in the early detection of ovarian and uterine cancers.
- Injuries or wounds resulting from sexual intercourse, such as vaginal tears. These issues should be addressed by a doctor to prevent potential infections.
Healthcare During Menopause
Menopause marks the cessation of ovarian function and hormone production, resulting in the end of menstruation and infertility. The challenges during this phase are akin to those of the reproductive age. The issues that may arise are:
- Sexually transmitted diseases — which can still occur during this stage if sexual activity continues. Even if pregnancy is no longer a concern, using condoms is still recommended.
- Non-sexually transmitted infectious diseases, which are more prevalent during this stage compared to the reproductive age. This is attributed to reduced vaginal secretions, dryness, thinning of the vaginal wall, and aging in general. Consequently, the decrease in beneficial bacteria makes the vagina more susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. In cases of recurring infections, a doctor may recommend vaginal douching to help restore vaginal health.
- or atypical cell tumors, which become more prevalent with age, raising the risk of cancer. Hence, regular physical examinations and cancer screenings for women, including breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancers, are crucial. If menstrual bleeding resumes after a year of absence, this may indicate uterine or ovarian irregularities, which requires a medical examination.
- Menopausal symptoms, which arise due to the natural decline in sex hormones, resulting in issues such as hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, low energy, vaginal discomfort, sagging, and uterine prolapse. For severe symptoms, seeking medical attention is advised. Treatment options include medication, surgery, or laser-assisted vaginal tightening.
- Bone disease. For older adults, bone density screening is crucial. It’s a major part of maintaining good bone health. People with bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteopenia are often asymptomatic. Many older adults are unaware that they have a bone disease until they suffer a fracture and have to visit the hospital. However, bisphosphonates, calcium supplementation, and hormone therapy can help prevent bone disease from developing.
The Women’s Center
at Bumrungrad International Hospital has a dedicated team of women’s health specialists ready to provide expert care to women of all ages.
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