Hallelujah to the estrogen patch! When Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a smart and dedicated OBGYN and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine, prescribed it for me almost a year ago, she said my bone density numbers would likely improve. And they have!
First, some background: I was diagnosed with osteoporosis 14 months ago, and my endocrinologist prescribed a bisphosphonate to treat it. ‘Was lack of estrogen the reason for my consistently declining bone density?’ I asked her, but she didn’t have a clue. All she knew what that I had osteoporosis; she didn’t seem to give a whit about the cause. But, when I interviewed some of the leading doctors in the field of women’s health, I learned that loss of estrogen can absolutely precipitate bone loss. No wonder 61 percent of women over 60 years old take a bisphosphonate drug.
Before joining the high percentage of bisphosphonate-taking women, I decided to see with Dr. Minkin. Since bisphosphonates stop bone loss, but don’t build bone, I wanted to know if estrogen could actually increase my bone density, and whether Dr. Minkin thought I actually was a candidate for taking it.
Dr. Minkin’s answer to both questions was ‘yes,’ so I filled her prescription for a low-dose estrogen patch, instead of taking the bisphosphonate. Besides its inability to build bone, this class of drugs carries other risks which didn’t appeal to me.
Here’s the rundown of my bone density reports from February 19, 2016 and March 27, 2017. I wasn’t due to have a follow up test until 2018, but I was anxious to see if the estrogen patch had indeed improved my bone density a year after I was diagnosed with osteoporosis.
|February 19, 2016||March 27, 2017|
|Femoral Neck (left)||-2.8||-1.0||Osteoporosis||-2.3||-0.5||Osteopenia|
|Total Hip (left)||-1.6||-0.2||Osteopenia||-1.3||0.2||Osteopenia|
Every single number improved. When the endocrinologist called me with the results, she was thrilled. “Just keep doing what you’re doing,” she said, unaware that I wasn’t doing what she prescribed: Taking bisphosphonates. I didn’t think it was necessary to get into a discussion on the phone about the estrogen patch, but I plan to talk to her about it at my next appointment in six months.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, over and over. Even if you adore your gynecologist, she (or he) isn’t doing you any favors if she doesn’t know about the effects of estrogen loss on your cholesterol, on your bones, on your heart, and, of course, on your sexual health. And, if she does, but doesn’t bring up any of these subjects because she’s in a constant rush to get to the next patient, move on to another doctor who does!
Sexual health, by the way, is pretty critical to your overall health, and that includes something as simple as making sure your vaginal tissue is properly lubricated. Estrogen loss can take a pretty tough toll on that delicate tissue, resulting in extreme dryness, itching, discomfort, and pain, and preventing you from leading a vibrant life, and participating in many of the activities you love. Start by using Lubrigyn Lotion every time you shower. It absolutely will help return your vaginal tissue to a healthy state. I use it religiously, on my body, too!