Q: Do birth control pills prevent menopause?
— Nancy R., Augusta, Ga.
A: Birth control pills do not prevent menopause. They are made of synthetic, nonhuman, identical hormones that suppress your own hormone production.
Menopause is the time in our lives when we stop menstruating and producing hormones. Using birth control pills to suppress symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and irregular periods, has become popular in the U.S. in the past decade.
In addition to suppressing menopause symptoms, birth control pills can cause side effects, including mood swings, weight gain, and the end of menstruation. Their long-term side effects are unknown.
Q: I’m a 61-year-old woman and I’m getting really thick, ugly, discolored toenails. I’m getting embarrassed to wear open shoes. What causes this?
— Donna S., Tucson, Ariz.
A: There are many causes for discoloration of toenails as we age. If you get frequent pedicures, the nail polish will often cause discoloration. Taking a break from the nail salon will help.
The most common cause is a fungal infection. The fungus, tinea pedis, can be eradicated by keeping the nails very short and using vinegar on a cotton swab under the nail. Pseudomonas is a type of bacteria that can infect the nail bed and turn your nails into a greenish color. It can be treated with antibiotics.
Iron deficiency also can cause the nails to turn dark red, purple, or black.
Q: I’ve just hit 40 and I’m wondering: What are the first signs of menopause?
— Nicole M., Cheyenne, Wyo.
A: Because everyone is different you must learn to understand your body in order to best figure out when menopause starts. Many women experience a change in the frequency of their periods. They may become irregular, and hot flashes and night sweats may keep you awake at night.
Weight gain is another part of menopause. The sudden spare tire around the middle is a sure sign hormone imbalance is setting in. Mood swings and loss of sex drive often follow, as do a short temper and anxiety.
However, there are women who never experience any issues at all. Spend time figuring out your body and consider how things are changing from the way you felt 10 years ago.
Menopause is just another chapter in your life and it should be welcomed rather than feared.
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