30 Symptoms of Menopause
Dec 19, 2019
Strange changes millions of women experience at the same time
For generations, people have been calling menopause “the change.” Shouldn’t that be plural, though? So many things aren’t the same as they used to be, it’s tough to keep track of them all.
So, here’s a list of some of the most common things you can chalk up to your disappearing estrogen. It might not solve your problems. But at least you’ll know you’re not alone.
1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats, cold flashes, clammy skin and any other way you can think of to describe a sudden heat wave taking over your upper torso, neck and face from within. Caused by your confused blood vessels, which are getting overdilated due to hormone fluctuations. Could be helped tremendously by taking a plant-based* non-prescription supplement like Equelle. Explore other ways to beat the heat.
2. Brain fog. Having trouble recalling words or numbers? Forgetting things you did or why you did them? Good old estrogen used to work for you behind the scenes, helping you make all those neurological connections, and now you’re kind of understaffed.1 (See #1 above and #13 below.)
3. Heart racing, skipping beats or just general irregular rhythm. Hormone production is linked to your heartbeat, so as hormones shift during perimenopause, palpitations anywhere between a few seconds and a couple of minutes long are common. If yours differ or are accompanied by a rapid pulse and/or fainting, talk to your doctor.2
4. Insomnia or difficulty sleeping through the night. Night sweats don’t help anyone get a good night’s sleep. Neither do hormone-related shifts that mess with your circadian rhythms,3 and make you need to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.1 Anxiety can keep you up, too. And if you reach for your phone and start looking at social media when you can’t sleep, the blue light can keep you from getting back to sleep.4 How annoyingly ironic (see #5, below.)
5. Tiredness. Make that fatigue. Or maybe exhaustion is a better way to describe it. Can we attribute this to the night sweats? The insomnia? The irritation? All of the above? Probably. Is there more to it than that? Possibly. Is there anything we can do about it? Sure, if we can solve problem #4 above.1
6. Grumpiness. Many of us have been blaming hormones for our mood swings once a month since we first started getting our periods. But do you think maybe inadequate sleep and never knowing when you’re going to be drenched by a hot flash could have anything to do with it?
7. Unexpected tears. Sudden crying jags, often for no apparent reason are common among women with fluctuating hormones.5 (see #5 above and #7 below.)
8. Mental instability. You may feel a little sad, or totally unable to cope. There can also be a profound sense of loss involved with the change of life—as though you’ve lost yourself. The Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles recruited premenopausal women with no history of major depression and followed them for nine years. As some women entered perimenopause, they were twice as likely to have clinically significant depressive symptoms such as anxiety and panic attacks than those women who remained premenopausal.6,7
Hormone therapy is known to help dramatically, and doctors may prescribe other meds. Many of them would encourage you to also try quitting caffeine and alcohol.1
9. Unpredictable periods. Irregular cycles, shortened cycle, lengthened cycle, lighter flow than usual, heavier flow than usual, or a dramatic surprise appearance. Ah, the excitement and suspense of perimenopause.
10. Your sex drive stalls out. Or it downshifts. Or screeches to a halt. Some women even become repulsed by sex, the way they may have felt before the hormonal tidal wave of puberty first hit.1 Find ways to keep it fresh.
11. You need lube. Maybe you want to have sex, but your vagina doesn’t seem to be on board with the plan. It’s dry, dry, dry, and intercourse may be painful.4 There are tantalizing products on the market that can help, and they can be fun to shop for if you’re not suffering from symptom #10 above. (Handy household tip: coconut oil works, too.)
12. Oops. Clumsiness, reduced reaction time, and/or trouble judging distances seem to be a menopause thing. (Read #13 below for more clues about this.)
13. Feeling disoriented or confused. Any combination of symptoms on this list could make a person feel this way. Still, this is good motivation for getting more mentally active and trying new things. Using your brain keeps it from atrophying. As brain researcher Marian Diamond says, “use it or lose it.”
14. Your balance is off. Aging can cause inner ear structures to break down, and hormonal changes associated with menopause can exacerbate the decline.8 Losing sleep also can affect your brain function and cause dizziness.9
15. Leakage. Ever hear the expression “I laughed so hard, I wet my pants”? We’re guessing it was a menopausal woman who came up with that. Loss of muscle tone and elasticity can cause incontinence, especially when you sneeze, laugh or lift something heavy.1 Maybe get serious about those Kegel exercises now. (Side note: strengthening your pelvic floor can have the added advantage of improving problem #10, above.)
16. You feel like something is crawling on you. Estrogen helps your skin produce oils and collagen. With less estrogen, skin loses moisture and plumpness.10 As it does, it can feel itchy or tickly, like there are bugs on you. Although it could just be the hair falling out onto your arms (see #20.)
17. You need a new bra wardrobe. Are the girls shape-shifting? As estrogen disappears, connective tissue in the breasts becomes dehydrated and loses elasticity. The breast tissue shrinks, loses shape and has trouble defying gravity. At the same time, if you’re gaining weight, your breasts are probably sizing up, and so is the circumference of your torso.11
18. Your head hurts. Migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches can be associated with hormonal changes as well as the constricting and dilating of blood vessels that also causes hot flashes. Hormone replacement therapy can intensify headaches, too. There are meds that can help, and non-medical solutions like acupuncture, vitamin E, black cohosh, aerobic exercise, and yoga are worth trying.12
19. You’re gaining weight. Especially around the waist and thighs, filling in what used to be your waistline. As you lose muscle mass with age, your body burns calories more slowly. Sleep deprivation is also linked to weight gain.13 Move more. Eat less. Cut down on sugar and alcohol. Extra weight increases your risk of getting things you don’t want, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, pulmonary problems and certain types of cancer.14
20. Your hair is different. The hair on your head is falling out, getting thin, going gray and changing texture. Your body hair is disappearing. At the same time, whiskers are appearing on your chin.15 Female Pattern Baldness is a thing, and it may have to do with menopause, it may be genetic, or it could be related to stress, thyroid disease or a medication you’re taking. Those chin hairs though? Hormones.16
21. Change stinks. Our body odor changes as we get older, and the hormonal changes you’re experiencing now may be responsible for that. Researchers have recently shown a relationship between our scent and our ability to reproduce.17
22. A shocking symptom. If you feel something like an electric shock under your skin or in your head, you’re not alone. It’s thought to be related to the body’s electrical system, which can get tripped up by the various physiological changes menopause brings.18
23. Prickly sensations. If your extremities feel numb sometimes, or you get that pins and needles thing, hormone imbalances can be the cause. But the tingling can also be a symptom of B12 deficiency, diabetes, changes in blood vessel flexibility, or a depletion of potassium or calcium,18 so if that persists, talk to your doctor.
24. Pink toothbrush. Gum problems all of a sudden? Researchers believe that bone loss and inflammation due to estrogen deficiency are the culprits here.19 Regular dental care and early diagnosis are the keys to keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.
25. Burning Mouth Syndrome. This condition may be a reaction to the reduction in saliva some women experience as their estrogen levels get lower. It can cause a burning, tender, tingling, hot, scalding or numb sensation anywhere in the mouth, and there may be a metallic taste along with it.20
26. Cottonmouth. Estrogen loss causes dryness, and dryness in the mouth creates conditions for bacteria to thrive, and thriving bacteria means bad breath.21 Gum, anyone?
27. You’re shrinking. Osteoporosis shows up when estrogen cuts out, causing bone to break down faster than new bone can be built. Hormone therapy can help a lot, and drugs can reduce bone loss and stimulate new bone formation. If you haven’t lost bone density yet, cut your risk by getting 1000–1200 mg of calcium and 600–1000 IU of Vitamin D every day.1 Exercise regularly. If you still haven’t stopped smoking, stop smoking. And work on your balance so you can avoid falling down.
28. Your nails are in sad shape. Cracking, breaking, peeling, or soft nails? Estrogen is essential for producing keratin—the protein your nails are made of.22 Try stepping up your hand-and-cuticle moisturizing game and treat yourself to a gel manicure. Beautiful nails can be a great distraction from a sweaty face, extra weight, and any chin hairs your tweezers may have missed.
29. Your ears are ringing. Or whooshing, or buzzing, or making other sounds only you can hear. It’s called tinnitus, and it’s not clear if this annoying condition is menopause-related, or one of those age-related things that happen to pop up at the same time as menopause.8 It’s also a known side effect of medications a lot of us take for other symptoms on this list, including aspirin and Prozac. If you really can’t stand it, an audiologist can make you an over-the-ear white noise gadget called a tinnitus masker. If you think more noise will help.
30. Sore, aching muscles and joints. Turns out, inflammation is yet another thing estrogen was good at controlling. Muscle tension can also be caused by anxiety, or any of the other symptoms, above really. Relaxing with yoga, meditation or a nice massage can help. Equelle can also be helpful with this type of muscle discomfort.
*The active ingredient in Equelle is S-equol, a plant-based, naturally derived compound.
REFERENCES:1. Allmen, Tara. Menopause Confidential: a Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving through Midlife. HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016.2. Rosano G. M. et al. "Palpitations: What Is the Mechanism, and When Should We Treat Them?" Int J Fertil Womens Med. 1997; 42(2): 94-100.3. Deecher, D. C. et al. "Understanding the Pathophysiology of Vasomotor Symptoms (Hot Flushes and Night Sweats) That Occur in Perimenopause, Menopause, and Postmenopause Life Stages." Arch Womens Ment Health. 2007; 10(6): 247-57.4. Harvard Health Publishing. “Blue light has a dark side.” Harvard Health Letter. Accessed on: October 10, 2019. <https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side>5. UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.“Mood Disorders: Perimenopause & Menopause.” Accessed on: October 10, 2019. <https://www.semel.ucla.edu/mood/perimenopause-menopause>6. Cohen L. S., et al. "Risk for New Onset of Depression During the Menopausal Transition: The Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles." Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006; 63(4): 385-90.7. Harlow B. L., et al. "Depression and Its Influence on Reproductive Endocrine and Menstrual Cycle Markers Associated with Perimenopause: The Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles." Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003; 60(1): 29-36.8. Lai, J. T. et al. "Hormone Replacement Therapy for Chronic Tinnitus in Menopausal Women: Our Experience with 13 Cases." Clin Otolaryngo. 2017; 42(6): 1366-69.9. Masakazu T et al. “Dizziness in peri- and postmenopausal women is associated with anxiety: a cross-sectional study.” Journal of BioPsychoSocial Medicine. 2018; 12: 21.10. Nair, P. “Dermatosis associated with menopause.” Journal of Mid-Life Health. 2014; 5(4): 168–175.11. den Tonkelaar I et al. ”Increase in breast size after menopause: Prevalence and determinants.” Maturitas. 2003; 48(1):51-57.12. Lauritsen C. G. et al. “Current Treatment Options: Headache Related to Menopause-Diagnosis and Management.” Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2018; 20(4):7.13. Hruby, A et al. “Determinants and Consequences of Obesity”. American Journal of Public Health. 2016; 106(9): 1656–1662.14. Mishra G. et al. Health symptoms during midlife in relation to menopausal transition: British prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2012; 344: e402. Published online 2012 Feb 8. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e40215. Pierard-Franchimont C. et al. “Alterations in Hair Follicle Dynamics in Women.” Biomed Research Int. 2013; 957432.16. Blume-Peytavi, U et al. “Skin Academy: Hair, skin, hormones and menopause - current status/knowledge on the management of hair disorders in menopausal women” Eur J Dermatol. 2012; 22(3):310-18 17. Lobmaier J.S. et al. “The scent of attractiveness: levels of reproductive hormones explain the individual differences in women’s body odour.” Proc Bio Sci. 2018; 285(1886). 18. Association of Women for the Advancement of Research and Education - Project Aware. "The 35 Symptoms of Menopause." Accessed on: October 10, 2019. <https://www.project-aware.org/Experience/symptoms.shtml>19. Buencamino M. C. et al. “How menopause affects oral health, and what we can do about it.” Cleve Clin J Med. 2009;76(8):467-75.20. Dahiya P. et al. “Burning mouth syndrome and menopause.” Int J of Prev Med. 2013; 4(1):15-20.21. Mutneja P et al. “Menopause and the oral cavity.” Indian Journal of Endocrinol and Metab. 2012; 16(4): 548–551.22. Goluch-Koniuszy, ZS. “Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause.” Prz Menopauzalny (Menopause Review). 2016; 15(1): 56–61.