I learned quite a lot during my plastic surgery residency and fellowship. I thought I knew just about everything there was to know regarding my chosen specialty. As I matured I learned that I don’t know everything and that life is about constant learning. My patients have taught me a lot—particularly about an issue I was confronted with daily but frankly didn’t realize its significance.
I’m referring to the fact that the majority of my patients are female, and all of them will go through menopause at some time in their life. Menopause is the initiation of profound physiologic changes that affects the body and the mind. It typically starts in the mid-to-late 40s and lasts about 4 years.
What I see on my end as a plastic surgeon is a middle-aged women who tells me that her skin is not the same, that she has aged significantly and that there has been weight gain and fat redistribution. The elephant in the room is the impact that these changes may have on her self-esteem and her relationships. This is a turning point in life at the same time when the average fifty year old is going through many other issues.
There are treatments offered to post menopausal patients such as HRT (hormone replacement therapy). The science of the use of hormones after menopause is incomplete and controversial. Plastic surgeons, such as myself, must be aware of the issues facing their patients and deal with them with compassion and understanding. Plastic surgery has a role in making this life transition a little bit easier.