Routines, RA, and Menopause – Oh My!

By Marianna Boyce

There’s nothing unusual about having a daily routine. No matter how busy or sedentary our lives may be, we mindlessly perform the same tasks without giving it a second thought. If my schedule is out of sync, it throws off my entire day. Over the past several years, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has forced me to constantly create new routines.

One morning, I’d clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Not only were my joints filled with intense pain, but my brain was also discombobulated. Adhering to my morning regiment was ridiculously grueling. An RA flare made it difficult leaving the house that morning, but I managed anyway.

pexels-photo-313690.jpgAfter making it to the office, I contemplated returning home, going back to bed, and starting the day over again. However, I knew this would not have helped, so instead, I grumpily grabbed my bag and told the ladies in the office, “Hold up y’all, I’ll be right back,” as I rushed out the door.

I feebly limped to my car and got in. As I sat in the driver’s seat with my forehead resting on my hands, nothing helped much in the pain department, but a moment alone in silence allowed me to clear a few of the cobwebs and gather my thoughts. The ladies inside probably thought I was off my rocker for disappearing with no explanation.

A few minutes later, I re-entered the front door as if I was walking in for the first time that day. My big ole smile matched the upbeat sound of my voice as I said, for what sounded like the first time, “Good morning, ladies.” Clearly, I was off my rocker. My coworkers who know me so well quickly identified my forced smile and fake joyful tone. We laughed about my whirlwind tantrum and dramatic exit, then went on with our day. Now, we often chuckle about that funny morning.

It’s taken quite some time figuring out how to (mostly) successfully live with RA, but now, I’m coping with another issue. I’m currently 51, and my body is undergoing another drastic change. Menopause is looming. I still have my cycle, so I’m not quite there yet. However, those premenopausal darts are currently being thrown in my direction.

Person Lying on Bed Covering White BlanketPerimenopause, the transitional phase before menopause, begins several years before menopause. The average length of time for this stage differs for every woman. Ovaries make less estrogen during this stage and eventually, the body stops releasing eggs altogether. When a woman goes twelve months without having a period, perimenopause ends, and full-on menopause begins.

Perimenopausal symptoms include, but are not limited to:  

  • Irregular periods
  • Worsening premenstrual symptoms
  • Severe breast tenderness
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Lower sex drive
  • Urinary urgency and leakage

I’m experiencing eight of eleven signs listed above, while also contending with lifelong symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but I keep moving forward.

RA symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint pain (especially in the morning)
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness, swelling, redness, and warmth
  • Both sides affected (symmetric or mirroring)
  • Loss of range of motion, or function
  • Joint deformity
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Brain fog
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Depression

Since I have this wonderful platform, I’ll take this opportunity to also publish one fact and one symptom about RA in my own words:

FACT: Rheumatoid arthritis has absolutely nothing to do with age.

It’s frustrating when people say it is just because we are getting old. While I’m not opposed to getting older, this is not that.

SYMPTOM: Lubricating fluid surrounding the joints feels more like hardening cement instead.

This is the best way I can describe what rheumatoid arthritis feels like to those who have not experienced it. RA is challenging, painful, and life-altering.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful rheumatologist at Lexington Medical Center helping me navigate this life-altering disease. Since Dr. G’s specialty is Rheumatology, I’ll have to seek advice from my OBGYN when the time comes to navigate the menopause department.

I understand that as we age, aches and pains are inevitable. Our bodies snap, crackle, and pop when we wake each morning. As time goes on, we often wonder how in the world we arrived here because it all happens in a flash. We should all strive to grow old with grace and dignity – facing the natural progression of life.

God is good regardless of what curveballs are hurled in our direction. I’m often reminded despite my tough days and everchanging routines that there are many others in more difficult situations than me.

What are you dealing with today? How has it affected your routine? Let me know in the comments!

Health Tips for Every Decade

Carolina Women’s Physicians, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The practice has provided comprehensive obstetric and gynecology care for women in the Midlands for a decade. In recognition of that milestone, the practice offers tips for women in all decades of life.

CWP Group Outside_2017

 

20s

Nearly 20 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur each year. Most happen in women under the age of 25. Because some have no symptoms, it’s important for women in their 20s to see a health care provider regularly. In addition, symptoms such as odor, discharge and pelvic pain require immediate attention. Some infections can cause complications that could lead to infertility. Doctors can perform simple tests to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.

 

30s

Premenstrual syndrome peaks for women in their 30s for several reasons. First, women’s bodies are not as forgiving compared with earlier in life.  Secondly, women in their 30s are at higher risk for depression, stress and obesity. And, it’s more difficult to clear excess calories from alcohol and caffeine, which can result in lack of sleep. Making simple changes to a daily routine can prevent premenstrual syndrome. Get eight hours of sleep each night, exercise 3 to 4 times per week, eat nutritious foods and pay attention to calories.

 

40s

The five years leading up to menopause can be filled with irritability, memory changes and sleep problems. Metabolism can begin to slow down and menstrual cycles will fluctuate. These are symptoms of perimenopause and can be treated with hormonal and non-hormonal methods. It’s also important to eat a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates to diminish the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

 

50s

Many women believe that changes will slow down and they will start to relax in this season of life. However, the risk of depression can increase and is very common in women in their 50s. Symptoms such as changes in appetite, shortened sleep cycles, weight gain and apathy can be signs of depression and anxiety. A combination of medicine and therapy are the most effective ways to treat chronic and situational depression. Remaining engaged in long-time friendships, traveling and exercise can also help.

 

Carolina Women’s Physicians has locations in West Columbia and Irmo. Visit CarolinaWomensPhysicians.com or call (803) 936 – 7590 for an appointment.