abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB)
bleeding that is abnormal in frequency, severity or duration and is not the same as irregular periods during perimenopause, or bleeding from menopause hormone replacement therapy.
tiny glands in the breast that produce milk.
the absence of menses, a woman’s monthly period, that is not related to menopause.
involuntary leakage of gas, solid or liquid stool resulting from loss of anal sphincter control and which impairs quality of life.
midlife thinning of scalp hair in women. The cause is unknown but is unrelated to menopause and could be from genetic predisposition, local androgen metabolism, growth factors, stress, hormones or a combination of these.
when the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the substance in the blood that carries oxygen to organs) becomes reduced, causing fatigue that can be severe.
the dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.
government-approved prescription drugs that block the formation of estrogen and are used for prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
inflammation or infection of the vagina. Can be marked by thin, smooth, pale, dry and inflamed vaginal walls.
a condition in which abnormal breast cells are found in either the breast lobules (atypical lobular hyperplasia) or the breast ducts (atypical ductal hyperplasia). Atypical hyperplasia is not cancer, but having it increases breast cancer risk.
surgically removing both ovaries, usually including the fallopian tubes.
a condition in which the bladder drops down from its normal position, usually the result of pelvic floor weakness after childbirth.
body mass index (BMI)
a measure of body fat based on a person’s height and weight, frequently used to screen for chronic health issues.
bone mineral density (BMD)
a measure of the amount of bone tissue in a segment of bone, used to determine bone strength and predict fracture risk.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
genetic mutations that have the potential to cause cancer, especially cancer of the breasts and ovaries.
a disease characterized by abnormal breast cells that divide and multiply uncontrollably. The abnormal cells can also invade nearby tissue, and/or enter the bloodstream and lymphatic system and spread throughout the body.
a way to create images of deep breast tissue using sound waves, often to examine an abnormality following a mammogram or breast exam to determine whether it is a cyst or solid tissue.
a fungus, called Candida albicans, that causes yeast infections such as thrush in the mouth and throat, and in intestines and other parts of the body.
the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.
a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). Most people have no symptoms, but chlamydia can cause serious damage to a woman’s reproductive organs. When a woman does have symptoms, they may include thin vaginal discharge and other symptoms similar to gonorrhea such as burning when urinating. Long-term irritation may cause lower abdominal pain, inflammation of the pelvic organs and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts six months or longer, and does not improve with rest or is worsened by physical or mental activity. Other symptoms can include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration and insomnia. The cause is unknown.
an organized program conducted with patients by researchers in order to evaluate a medical treatment, drug or device.
an external female sex organ located near the top of the inner labia of the vagina. The clitoris is very sensitive to the touch, and for most women it is a center of sexual pleasure.
conscious intellectual activity that includes thinking, reasoning, remembering, attention and language.
procedure that uses a special microscope (called a colposcope) to look into the vagina and to look very closely at the cervix.
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
healing approaches not usually used in conventional medicine. “Complementary” often indicates a therapy is used in addition to conventional treatment, and “alternative” when it is used instead of conventional treatment.
computed axial tomography (CAT)
type of body imaging processed by a computer and viewed on a screen.
congestive heart failure
when the heart is unable to maintain adequate blood circulation.
conjugated estrogens (CE)
a mixture of estrogen hormones used to treat menopause symptoms (such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, burning and irritation), to prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women and to replace estrogen in women with conditions that cause a lack of estrogen in the body.
custom compounded hormones
prescription hormone therapies, such as topical creams, gels, lotions, tablets and suppositories, specially mixed for women and not regulated by the government.
removal of an ovarian cyst, often by laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique.
urinary bladder inflammation.
weakening of the vaginal wall that allows the urinary bladder to bulge into the vagina, often resulting in urinary incontinence and other urinary symptoms.
an androgen produced mainly in the adrenal glands that is the precursor of both testosterone and estrogen and decreases with aging.
a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. Symptoms may include memory loss, confusion, personality changes, and difficulty with normal activities such as eating or dressing. Dementia has many causes, including Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
a square, thin piece of latex that can be placed over the anus or the vagina before oral sex.
term used to describe an emotional state involving sadness, lack of energy and low self-esteem.
a disease in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by a problem with the body’s defense system, called the immune system. This form of diabetes usually starts in childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It starts most often in adulthood.
a technology that records the breast image directly into a computer so that it can be enlarged or highlighted. More expensive than a film mammogram, digital mammograms are not widely available.
dilation and curettage (D&C)
surgical procedure where the cervix is dilated so that the endometrium (uterine lining) can be scraped and removed for examination. Used to determine the cause of certain conditions, such as abnormal uterine bleeding.
a type of medication sometimes called water pills because they work in the kidney and flush excess water and sodium from the body.
a lab test in which a patient’s DNA is tested. DNA is a molecule that contains a person’s genetic information and is found in every cell in a person’s body.
dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)
a standard test that uses the principles of absorptiometry, the degree to which tissue absorbs radiation, to determine bone mineral density in the spine, hip or whole body.
ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
a condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of breast ducts. These cells have not spread outside the duct to the surrounding breast tissue. DCIS is not cancer. But some cases of DCIS become breast cancer over time, so it’s important to get treatment for DCIS.
small milk ducts in the breast leading to the mammary or lactiferous ducts.
eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, involve serious problems with eating. This could include an extreme decrease of food or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress and concern about body shape or weight.
surgical procedure that uses heat, such as lasers or electrical current, to thin or remove the uterine lining as a treatment for abnormally heavy uterine bleeding.
removing a sample of uterine lining tissue through the cervical opening to examine it microscopically for abnormal cells.
cancer that develops from the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus (womb).
tissue overgrowth or thickening of the uterine lining, likely as a result of too much estrogen. It is a risk factor for uterine cancer.
a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other areas of the body, usually inside the abdominal cavity, but acts as if it were inside the uterus. Blood shed monthly from the misplaced tissue has no place to go, and tissues surrounding the area of endometriosis may become inflamed or swollen. This can produce scar tissue. Symptoms include painful menstrual cramps that can be felt in the abdomen or lower back, or pain during or after sexual activity, irregular bleeding and infertility.
a diagnostic procedure in which a thin, flexible tube is introduced through the mouth or rectum to view parts of the digestive tract.
during labor a woman may be offered an epidural, where a needle is inserted into the epidural space at the end of the spine, to numb the lower body and reduce pain.
inability to achieve and keep a penile erection.
the primary naturally occurring estrogen produced by women. Also available as a prescription drug (oral, skin patch and vaginal) that is government approved to treat hot flashes, genitourinary syndrome of menopause and for preventing postmenopausal bone loss.
the least potent estrogen naturally produced by the body.
a group of female hormones that are responsible for the development of breasts and other secondary sex characteristics in women. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries and other body tissues.
transdermal delivery method for estrogen via a patch that adheres to the skin, allowing a gradual release of estrogen directly into the blood.
describes a wide range of estrogen types in various formulations, local and systemic, including oral, skin patch and vaginal, that are government approved to treat menopausal symptoms (hot flashes and vaginal atrophy) and for preventing postmenopausal bone loss.
part of the female reproductive system, one of a pair of tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus.
noncancerous tumors made of muscle cells and connective tissue that develop in the uterine wall, a common cause of abnormal uterine bleeding in women in midlife and older.
a disorder that causes aches and pain all over the body, and involves tender points on specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms and legs that hurt when pressure is put on them.
each month, an egg develops inside the ovary in a fluid-filled pocket called a follicle. The follicle releases the egg into the fallopian tube.
follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. In women, it helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries.
skin sensation that can occur during perimenopause and that can range from severe itching to feeling like insects are crawling on the skin.
a software risk calculator developed by the World Health Organization that evaluates the risk for fracture a woman has over a 10-year period.
sexually transmitted infection caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), and causing soft growths on the genitals. Genital warts can be painful and itchy.
a communication process between a specially trained health professional and a person concerned about the genetic risk of disease. The person’s family and personal medical history may be discussed, and counseling may lead to genetic testing.
the reproductive (sex) organs, especially those outside the body, including the testicles and penis in a man, or the vulva in a woman.
genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM)
multiple symptoms involving changes to the labia, clitoris, vagina, urethra and bladder and associated with falling levels of estrogen and other steroid levels.
a cell, group of cells or organ that makes chemicals and releases them for use by other parts of the body or to be excreted. The pituitary gland, for example, makes growth hormone, which stimulates cells to grow and divide. Sweat glands excrete water, salts and waste to help cool down the body.
body tissue that produces and releases one or more substances for use in the body. Some glands produce fluids that affect tissues or organs. Others produce hormones or participate in blood production. In the breast, glandular tissue is involved in the production of milk.
gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)
a hormone released by the brain (the hypothalamus) that suppresses estrogen production in the ovaries.
a sexually transmitted disease that often has no symptoms. However, some women have pain or burning when urinating; yellowish and sometimes bloody vaginal discharge; bleeding between menstrual periods; heavy bleeding with periods; or pain when having sex. Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
veins around the anus or lower rectum that are swollen and inflamed.
a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death. You get hepatitis B by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person; for instance, you can become infected by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person.
herpes simplex virus (HSV)
a virus that causes blisters and sores mainly around the mouth and genitals. There are two types. Type 1 is the most common and causes sores around the mouth, or cold sores. It is transmitted by infected saliva. Type 2 causes sores mainly on the genitals and is transmitted sexually.
a fracture (break) in the hip bone.
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that infects and destroys the body’s immune cells and causes a disease called AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS occurs in the most advanced stage of HIV infection, when a person’s T-cell count goes below 200 and he or she becomes ill with one of the health problems common in people with AIDS. HIV/AIDS infection is lifelong—there is no cure, but there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that come with it.
substance produced by one tissue and conveyed by the bloodstream to another to affect a function of the body, such as growth or metabolism.
hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
see menopausal hormone therapy.
hypoactive sexual desire disorder
deficiency or lack of sexual desire, arousal and orgasmic response.
see underactive thyroid.
surgery to remove the uterus.
insertion of a thin, lighted tube (scope) into the vagina through the cervix to examine the inside of the uterus.
the inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder, called urinary incontinence, or the escape of stool from the rectum, called fecal incontinence.
menopause caused by the removal of both ovaries or damage to the ovaries from pelvic radiation or chemotherapy.
problems with falling asleep or staying asleep or waking very early.
a long-lasting condition also known as painful bladder syndrome or frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome. The wall of the bladder becomes inflamed or irritated, which affects the amount of urine the bladder can hold and causes scarring, stiffening and bleeding in the bladder.
an important mineral involved in creating and using energy, including moving oxygen throughout the body.
exercises to strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine.
menopause that occurs toward the latter end of the range for when menopause normally occurs.
lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
a condition in which abnormal cells are found in the breast lobules. Since these cells have not spread outside the breast lobules, it’s called in situ, which means in place. With LCIS, there are more abnormal cells in the lobule than with atypical hyperplasia. LCIS is not cancer, but having it increases breast cancer risk.
a hormone that triggers ovulation and stimulates the corpus luteum (empty follicle) to make progesterone.
the almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection and disease. Lymph tissue in the breast helps remove waste, such as bacteria and viruses.
ducts in the breast that carry milk to the lactiferous sinuses and the nipple.
an X-ray of the breast, used to detect abnormal growths and breast tissue changes.
surgery to remove the breast, or as much of the breast tissue as possible.
menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)
replaces the hormones that a woman’s ovaries stop making at the time of menopause, easing symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. It involves using man-made estrogen alone or estrogen with progestin, often in the form of a pill or skin patch. MHT used to be called hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. [A recent, large study found that use of MHT poses some serious risks, such as increasing some women’s risk for breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung). Women who choose to use MHT should use the lowest dose that helps for the shortest time needed. Talk with your doctor to find out if MHT is right for you and discuss other ways to relieve menopause symptoms.]
the transition in a woman’s life when production of the hormone estrogen in her body falls permanently to very low levels, the ovaries stop producing eggs and menstrual periods stop for good.
increased menstrual bleeding, especially that lasts more than one week.
a recurring cycle in which the lining of the uterus thickens in preparation for pregnancy and then is shed if pregnancy does not occur.
having three or more of a constellation of symptoms that include central obesity, elevated triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and elevated fasting blood sugar. Carries an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
NAMS menopause practitioner
licensed healthcare provider certified by The North American Menopause Society in the field of menopause care.
a system of alternative medicine that treats disease by using nondrug techniques, including diet, exercise and massage, to restore the natural processes by which the body heals itself.
hot flashes that happen at night and can interrupt sleep, even if they are not severe enough to cause full awakening.
A nurse who has undergone special training and has received certification on birthing (labor and delivery). Nurse-midwives can perform most of the same tasks as physicians and have emergency physician backup when they deliver a baby.
removal of an ovary.
a bone disease that is characterized by progressive loss of bone density and thinning of bone tissue, causing bones to break easily.
cancer of the ovary or ovaries, which are organs in the female reproductive system that make eggs and hormones. Most ovarian cancers develop from the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary, called epithelial cells.
part of a woman’s reproductive system, the ovaries produce her eggs. Each month, through the process called ovulation, the ovaries release eggs into the fallopian tubes, where they travel to the uterus, or womb. If an egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm, a woman becomes pregnant and the egg grows and develops inside the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, the egg and the lining of the uterus is shed during a woman’s monthly menstrual period.
the release of a single egg from a follicle that developed in the ovary. It usually occurs regularly, around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.
a hormone that increases during pregnancy and acts on the breast to help produce the milk-ejection reflex.
a test that finds changes in the cells of the cervix. The test can find cancer or cells that can turn into cancer. To perform a Pap test, a healthcare provider uses a small brush to gently scrape cells from the cervix for examination under a microscope.
parathyroid hormone (PTH)
a hormone that helps the body use and store calcium. Made by the parathyroid gland and also available as a prescription drug government approved to treat patients at high-risk of fracture as a result of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
during this exam, the doctor or nurse practitioner looks for redness, swelling, discharge or sores on the outside and inside of the vagina. A Pap test tests for changes in the cells of the cervix. The doctor or nurse practitioner will also put two fingers inside the vagina and press on the abdomen with the other hand to check for cysts or growths on the ovaries and uterus. STD tests may also be done.
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
an infection of the female reproductive organs that are above the cervix, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is the most common and serious problem caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). PID can cause ectopic pregnancies, infertility, chronic pelvic pain and other serious problems. Symptoms include fever, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, extreme pain and vaginal bleeding.
the phase in a woman’s reproductive life cycle leading up to menopause. Menopause is reached when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. Before that point, during perimenopause, a woman’s body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This causes some women to have symptoms such as hot flashes and changes in their periods. Many women go through it in their 40s and 50s.
peripheral vascular disease (also called peripheral arterial disease (PAD))
a common disorder in which the arteries supplying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to a limb (typically one or both legs) are blocked. As a result, the body’s organs do not get enough blood flow for normal function. The most common cause of PAD is atherosclerosis.
a small gland in the head that makes hormones that control other glands and many body functions, including growth.
polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
a health problem that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels and appearance. With PCOS, women typically have high levels of androgens or male hormones, missed or irregular periods, and many small cysts in their ovaries.
menopause that occurs at age 40 or earlier, possibly caused by genetics, an autoimmune disorder or medical treatments or procedures.
primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
a condition in women age 40 and younger when many periods in a row are skipped or periods stop altogether, which may be a sign that very few eggs are left in the ovaries. Unlike premature menopause, with POI ovarian activity can resume.
a female hormone produced by the ovaries. Progesterone, along with estrogen, prepares the uterus (womb) for a possible pregnancy each month and supports the fertilized egg if conception occurs.
a hormone that works by causing changes in the uterus. When taken with the hormone estrogen, progestin works to prevent thickening of the lining of the uterus. Progestins also are prescribed to regulate the menstrual cycle, treat unusual stopping of menstrual periods, help a pregnancy occur or maintain a pregnancy, or treat unusual or heavy bleeding of the uterus. They also can be used to prevent pregnancy, help treat cancer of the breast, kidney or uterus, and help treat loss of appetite and severe weight or muscle loss.
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
see sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
diseases that are spread by sexual activity. Also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
a disorder involving brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.
when activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise cause involuntary loss of urine.
stoppage of blood flow to an area of the brain, causing permanent damage to nerve cells in that region. A stroke can occur either because an artery is clogged by a blood clot (called ischemic stroke) or an artery tears and bleeds into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). A stroke can cause symptoms such as loss of consciousness, problems with movement and loss of speech.
a sexually transmitted disease which may or may not have symptoms. Symptoms in the first stages can include painless sores on the genitals, anus or mouth and enlarged lymph nodes in the area around the sore. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. If left untreated, syphilis can permanently damage the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints. This damage includes paralysis (not being able to move or feel a part of the body), numbness, blindness, dementia and even death.
values that report bone strength based on bone density testing and used to evaluate fracture risk. Z-score compares bone density to women of similar age and is used to determine if further testing is needed. T-score compares bone density to younger women and is used to determine if treatment is needed.
male androgen hormone essential for producing sperm and for male secondary sex characteristics in men, and in women helps to regulate sexual desire and to maintain health of the bones and muscles.
a yeast infection of the mouth and throat caused by the fungus Candida albicans. Its hallmark is white patches in the mouth. It can also occur in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, and causes some types of diaper rash in infants.
a small gland in the neck that makes and stores hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and the rate at which food is converted into energy.
a very common STD in both women and men that is caused by a parasite that is passed from one person to another during sexual contact. It also can be passed through contact with damp, moist objects such as towels or wet clothing. Symptoms include yellow, green or gray vaginal discharge (often foamy) with a strong odor; discomfort during sex and when urinating; irritation and itching of the genital area; or lower abdominal pain (rare).
a painless, harmless diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to view and produce images of tendons, muscles, joints, vessels, internal organs and other internal body structures. Also called sonography.
also called hypothyroidism, it is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms can include weight gain, constipation, dry skin and sensitivity to the cold.
the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. You have two ureters, one for each kidney.
the tube that releases urine from the body.
involuntary urine leakage with sense of urgency to urinate, often caused by overactive bladder.
involuntary loss of urine resulting from urinary tract infection, pelvic relaxation, bladder contractions or other conditions.
urinary tract infection
an infection anywhere in the urinary tract or in the organs that collect and store urine and release it from your body (the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra). An infection occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the urethra (opening to the urinary tract) and begin to multiply.
gynecologist trained to treat problems of the female reproductive and urinary system.
physician trained to treat problems of the urinary system.
refers to any bleeding originating from the uterus, including menstrual, but usually refers to uterine bleeding that is abnormal.
common, benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterus (womb). Fibroids often cause no symptoms and need no treatment, and they usually shrink after menopause. However, sometimes fibroids cause heavy bleeding or pain and require treatment.
a woman’s womb, or the hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum.
the muscular canal that extends from the cervix to the outside of the body. Its walls are lined with mucus membranes and tiny glands that make vaginal secretions.
when tissues of the vulva and lining of the vagina become thin, dry and lose elasticity as a result of estrogen loss.
inadequate lubrication of the vagina, often caused by low estrogen levels, medication or lack of arousal.
prescription estrogen therapy applied as a cream, ring, suppository or tablet directly to the vagina, government approved to treat vaginal dryness and atrophy.
nonprescription products that replenish and maintain water content in the vagina. They are similar to vaginal lubricants but are effective for a longer duration. Can relieve symptoms of irritation, itching and burning not limited to intercourse and help to guard against infection by maintaining a healthy level of acidity in the vagina. They do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Inflammation of the vagina, often caused by infection. Symptoms can include vaginal itching, burning, pain and discharge.
also called hot flashes and night sweats, common during perimenopause and early menopause.
the external female genital organ. It has five parts, including the urinary opening and the opening to the vagina.
vulva pain, such as burning, stinging, itching, irritation or a raw feeling.
inflammation or infection of the vulva. It can affect girls and women of any age, and is often caused by bacteria, yeast, viruses, allergens and/or sexually transmitted diseases.
exercise that involves bones and muscles working against the force of gravity or bearing the body’s weight, and may slow menopausal bone loss and reduce fracture risk. Examples: Brisk walking, jogging, dancing, resistance training.
Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)
A large research project established in 1991 by the National Institutes of Health to examine the most common causes of death, disability and impaired quality of life in postmenopausal women. The most often-reported findings refer to the relationship between oral hormone therapy and cardiovascular disease, stroke, breast cancer, osteoporosis, colon cancer and other conditions.
women’s health specialist
allied health professional, such as a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant, who specializes in women’s health issues.
a common infection in women caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. It is normal to have some yeast in your vagina, but sometimes it can overgrow because of hormonal changes in your body, such as during pregnancy, or from taking certain medications, such as antibiotics. Symptoms include itching, burning and irritation of the vagina; pain when urinating or with intercourse; and cottage cheese-looking vaginal discharge.
vaginal infection caused by one of the many species of the fungus Candida albicans.