Studies have shown that women who have undergone a hysterectomy, especially at a younger age, were more at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure.
If hysterectomy can have an effect on all these critical functions, what other side effects are possible? Can a woman experience rapid aging after a hysterectomy? Does it make a difference if they do not remove the ovaries during a hysterectomy? Does the woman’s age at the time of the hysterectomy make a difference? Let’s take a look at some of the changes a woman’s body goes through after a hysterectomy.
What Is A Hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus. In some cases, other organs that are part of the female reproductive system are also removed which may include one or both ovaries, cervix, and fallopian tubes.
The Vast Majority Of Hysterectomies Performed In The US Are Unnecessary
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at least 600,000 hysterectomies are done each year in the United States which amounts to approximately 1 out of every 3 women by age 60.
The average age of hysterectomy is less than 40 years of age and the most common reason women undergo hysterectomy is benign uterine fibroids. Why? With the high success rate of uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), this has led many medical experts to state that the vast majority of hysterectomies are totally unnecessary.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, MD Ob/Gyn & Chief Medical Correspondent for ABC News and Good Morning America (GMA):
“Hysterectomy is one of the most overprescribed, unnecessary surgeries in North America. Women who are experiencing painful, heavy periods need to know they have options. A lot of women are still only prescribed the procedures their doctors personally perform, which in many cases is hysterectomy. To me that is unacceptable. Part of being a healthy, vibrant empowered woman is doing your homework.”
What Are The Different Types Of Hysterectomies?
- Partial hysterectomy – the uterus is removed but the cervix is left intact.
- Total hysterectomy – the uterus and cervix are removed and possibly also one or both ovaries and/or fallopian tubes.
- Radical hysterectomy – the uterus, cervix, and the top part of the vagina are removed and normally reserved for when cancer is involved.
Hysterectomy with Ovary Removal – Oophorectomy
Approximately 78% of the hysterectomies done on women ages 45 -65 in the United States include the removal of the ovaries. It is also known that in cases where the ovaries are left intact, they often fail after the uterus is removed.
The ovaries are responsible for the production of estrogen and the sudden loss of this estrogen seems to be the reason behind rapid aging after a hysterectomy. As a woman naturally ages, the production of estrogen gradually slows down and her body goes through menopause progressively.
What Role Does Estrogen Play In A Premenopausal Woman?
Estrogen plays a key role in a number of bodily functions. Menstruation is at the top of the list and this abruptly stops when the ovaries are removed and immediately forces the onset of menopause. These women are not given the benefit of easing into it. Unpleasant symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and mood swings are likely to hit with a vengeance.
Low estrogen is linked to many other issues among women including:
1. Cognitive Impairment
Research has shown that women who are forced into early menopause are more at risk for dementia and conditions of the brain and memory including Parkinson’s disease.
2. Bone Density Loss
Estrogen helps maintain the strength and density of a woman’s bones. Sudden decreases in estrogen can contribute to arthritis and osteoporosis. Women who have experienced oophorectomy, especially if they were younger than 45, should be closely watched for signs of reduced bone density.
3. Older Appearance and Skin
Normally as we age, our estrogen levels wane, and the production of collagen and elastin slows down as well. This causes wrinkles to form, we lose the youthful volume in our skin, and begin to show all the signs of aging. The early onset of menopause brought on by the sudden decrease in estrogen production can cause rapid signs of aging after a hysterectomy in younger women.
Other Symptoms and Signs Of Low Estrogen
- Restless sleep;
- Hot flashes;
- Mood swings;
- Depression and anxiety;
- Night sweats;
- Loss of bone density/bone fractures;
- Urinary incontinence;
- Irregular periods or absence of periods (amenorrhea);
- Heart racing;
- Vaginal dryness;
- Waning sex drive;
- Pain during Intercourse.
Hysterectomy with Ovary Removal Can Cause Premature Death
In addition to the unpleasant symptoms experienced by the drop in estrogen caused by the removal of the ovaries, research has also found a link to premature death.
The University of Warwick, UK conducted a ten-year study on the link between hysterectomy with the removal of the ovaries and increased instances of cancer, heart disease, and premature death. The study looked at women ages 35 to 45 who when treated for a benign disease had both ovaries removed compared to those who only had one ovary or no ovaries removed. The group of women who lost both ovaries was at higher risk for premature death.
Another study in Australia conducted a 21-year study on women under the age of 50. Their objective was to determine whether a woman who had a hysterectomy and had both ovaries removed would have a higher risk of dying prematurely. The study also aimed to determine if hormone therapy would decrease these risks.
This Australian study determined that women who had a hysterectomy along with the removal of their ovaries had an increased risk of dying before the age of 75, but the group that retained their ovaries did not appear to have an increased risk of premature death similar to women who did not have a hysterectomy.
A third study, The Nurses Health Study was done on a group of 30,117 women who had hysterectomies for benign diseases. During the 28 years of follow-up, it was determined that women who had a hysterectomy with bilateral oophorectomy (both ovaries removed) before the age of 50 significantly increased the risk of heart disease and premature death.
These studies concluded that there is an increased risk of heart disease and a shorter life expectancy for women that undergo hysterectomy for fibroids. This risk is present in all women less than 50 years of age and increases the younger the woman is when she has her hysterectomy, i.e. risk is even higher for women who undergo a hysterectomy at 30 vs. 40 vs. 50 years of age.
The three studies also concluded that women who had both ovaries removed before the age of 50 but also did hormone replacement therapy (HRT) did not fall into the category of increased risk of premature death. However, HRT can increase the risk of several types of reproductive cancer in women.
Dr. Lipman on WAOK Radio: Unnecessary Hysterectomies Happen Every Single Day
Think Twice Before Undergoing A Hysterectomy
Having hysterectomy surgery can cause your body to undergo changes that are not yet fully understood by medical professionals. The side effects of hysterectomy after 60 are not as severe as the long-term effects for women who undergo a hysterectomy at younger ages. For women under 50, undergoing a hysterectomy can cause the ovaries to fail and stop producing estrogen, which can lead to premature aging, side effects of early menopause, increased risk of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and even premature death.
If you are experiencing significant symptoms from uterine fibroids and your doctor has recommended a hysterectomy, it would be wise to get a second opinion from an experienced Interventional Radiologist to see if Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is also an option.
UFE is completely nonsurgical and performed as an outpatient. Almost every single patient that is a candidate for hysterectomy for fibroids is also a candidate for UFE. UFE is safer than surgery and provides the relief of symptoms that women are looking for. It also allows these women to avoid the risks and long recovery of surgery, and they also get to keep their uterus!
Uterine Fibroids Are the Leading Cause Of Hysterectomy
Uterine fibroids are the #1 reason for hysterectomy in the United States. Fibroid symptoms can be debilitating and many women seek relief through their OB/GYN. Unfortunately, most OB/GYNs only offer a surgical solution and typically do not mention UFE as a treatment option.
Many women are in such distress that they just opt for surgery and do not realize they have another, less invasive, safer, a non-surgical option called uterine fibroid embolization or UFE. UFE is not performed by an OB/GYN but by an Interventional Radiologist, like Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout at The Atlanta Fibroid Center.
Why Choose Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) For Fibroids?
What happens to a woman’s body if you take out her uterus? It was thought for many years that the only purpose the uterus served was for having children.
The short and long-term side effects of hysterectomy have been the subject of many studies and the findings have continued to show that hysterectomy and the removal of the ovaries can be detrimental to a woman’s health and should be considered only as a last resort.
How UFE Eliminates Fibroid Symptoms
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) offers relief for painful, debilitating fibroid symptoms without sacrificing your uterus. UFE can eliminate fibroid symptoms with a 30-40 minute nonsurgical, outpatient procedure.
UFE cuts off the blood supply to every fibroid in the uterus and causes it to shrink and die. Therefore, it does not matter how big or how many fibroids you have. Also, UFE does not require a hospital stay and offers a substantially shorter recovery time than surgery, i.e. 5-7 days for UFE versus 6-8 weeks with surgery. Women can get pregnant and have children after UFE, which is obviously not possible after a hysterectomy.
If you are suffering from fibroids or adenomyosis and have been told you need a hysterectomy, please contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center for a consultation. Interventional Radiologists Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Ermentrout have been performing UFE for over 25 years and have helped over 10,000 patients become free from the painful symptoms associated with both fibroids and adenomyosis. Set up a consultation with The Atlanta Fibroid Center to learn more today!