What are the symptoms of menopause?
Menopause affects every woman differently. Some women may only realize that menopause is occurring because they have stopped having periods. As discussed, earlier, others may suffer severe symptoms. Many symptoms at this time of life happen because you are getting older. But some are due to menopause. It’s not always possible to tell if symptoms are related to aging, menopause, or both. Some changes you might notice as you near menopause include:
- Change in pattern of periods (They can be shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, or there may be more or less time between periods);
- Hot flashes (sometimes called hot flushes), night sweats (sometimes followed by a chill);
- Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats);
- Vaginal dryness;
- Mood swings, depression, or crying spells;
- Trouble focusing, “fuzzy thinking,” or forgetfulness;
- Hair loss or thinning on your head or more hair growth on your face.
What can I do about menopause?
While modern medicine is continuing to research effective treatments for menopause symptoms, the underlying cause is simply a natural transition in life, in some ways no different than childhood, puberty, child-rearing, and other stages of life – there is no cure! The key is to find effective mechanisms for coping with the symptoms, whether traditional medication, or natural products; as well as seeking out the emotional support of health-care professional and most importantly, other women. That is the primary purpose of this site – to provide a community of women who can help and support each other. We strongly recommend that you try the natural remedies that are offered here and on other websites, and that you read about menopause symptoms and treatments. We have also included other related products that may help you in this journey. Remember, you are not alone and as will all other passages – this too will end!
34 Symptoms of Menopause
1. Hot flashes and night sweats – a sudden transient sensation of warmth or heat that spreads through the body creating redness or flushing on the face and upper body. Night sweats are essentially hot flashes that occur at night and cause excessive perspiration and discomfort. This is related to increased activity in the autonomic/sympathetic nervous system and results from declining estrogen production which in turn causes vasodilatation, a widening of the lumen of blood vessels (lumen being the cavity of a tubular organ, i.e., the lumen of a blood vessel,) which, in turn, causes flushing or hot flashes.
2. Rapid heartbeat – also related to increased activity in the autonomic/sympathetic nervous system – sometimes women can experience rapid, skipped or irregular heartbeat (palpitations). These are generally normal vasomotor responses experienced during menopause – usually due to fluctuating hormone levels. However, if these problems continue or are problematic then ask your doctor to perform an echocardiogram to make sure there is nothing wrong with your heart.
3. Irritability – instances of irritability may occur for no apparent reason or provocation. While these hormone-induced reactions are normal, they may feel threatening to your day-to-day functions. In those cases you may need to seek mental health counseling, or group therapy, to better deal with these issues.
4. Mood swings - mood swings can include anything from mood shifts (happy to depressed) to sudden bouts of crying without provocation. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even feelings of agoraphobia aren’t uncommon during menopause. The panic attacks often can develop with the onset of hot flashes. For some women, hot flashes can be severe and quite frightening.
5. Sleep problems – menopausal women often have trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats). This is also attributable to aging. While sleep medications help – they can become psychologically addictive. Breathing exercises can be useful at this time – you may want to log onto our Live Chat to speak to other women who are suffering from this problem.
6. Irregular periods – shorter, lighter or heavier periods, flooding, and/or phantom periods (you experience all the symptoms you’re accustomed to having before you menstruate — but no period comes). This is a common during perimenopause before a woman’s period actually stops.
7. Loss of libido (sex drive) – women may experience different degrees of libido during and after menopause. Some may have a decreased interest in sex because of other symptoms, especially lack of sleep. Other may have problems due to medication side affects, particularly from anti-depressants and anti-hypertensives. Some progress is being made on developing female-oriented libido medications – but the best remedy is patience and sleep (if possible).
8. Vaginal dryness –a loss of the moist and soft feel of the lining of vaginal area which may be associated with itching and irritation. When your estrogen levels drop, your vaginal tissues start drying and become less elastic. Sex becomes uncomfortable, you may be more prone to infections, your vagina is frequently itchy and easily irritated, and, on the emotional side, you may feel older. In some instances it may atrophy — becoming somewhat smaller in width and length. Use of over-the-counter lubricants may be an easy and safe solution if your vagina has not changed significantly. Consult with your doctor in more severe cases.
9. Fatigue – a general feeling of lassitude and emotional “draining” – it is unclear whether this is a stand-alone symptom, or just an accumulation of other symptoms, particularly the lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause all sorts of problems. Women may get relief from some natural products and supplements, but the best solution is to nap whenever possible and don’t “overstress” your day. Warm baths and other relaxation techniques should also provide some relief.
10. Anxiety – it is unclear whether this is a stand-alone symptom or a by-product of other symptoms such as lack of sleep, although it is probably a combination of hormones and sleep deprivation. Nevertheless, it is one of the biggest complaints during menopause. As with fatigue, warm baths, naps, and relaxation may ease some of these symptoms. If the anxiety becomes unmanageable you should seek mental health counseling.
11. Panic - significant and debilitating emotional state characterized by overwhelming fear and anxiety. These feelings can be vague or intense caused by physical or psychological conditions. The frequency can range from a one-time event to recurring episodes and may include feelings of dread, apprehension, and doom. This is likely a manifestation of depression associated with menopause, or possibly feelings that come from going through daily discomfort of menopause that can last anywhere from 3-12 years. A woman living under these circumstances can feel totally overwhelmed and frightened by the physical, psychological and spiritual changes. You should seek counseling or support from other women as this could be a very serious problem.
12. Difficulty concentrating – this may occur along with disorientation, and mental confusion and is also likely connected to sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalance, anxiety and getting older. Menopause comes at a time in life when the brain begins to change for women and men. The best remedy is keeping the mind active and trying to capture as much sleep as possible. Don’t dwell on this – all of us age – we just need to keep it in perspective.
13. Disturbing memory lapses – similar to #12 above. Try to exercise your brain by reading, and doing brain challenges – word games, crossword puzzles, and writing.
14. Incontinence – incontinence can be one of three types: stress incontinence, where you urinate accidentally when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exert yourself; urge incontinence, where the bladder develops a “mind of its own,” contracting and emptying whenever full despite an individual’s conscious efforts to resist; and overflow incontinence, where which you completely lose the sensation that you have to go. While typically not severe, these symptoms are generally caused by a general loss of smooth muscle tone.
15. Itchy skin – may feel like ants crawling under the skin – your collagen production may slow down during menopause. Collagen is responsible for keeping our skin toned, fresh-looking, resilient. This is different than dry, itchy skin – it is more uncomfortable.
16. Aching joints, muscles and tendons – osteoarthritis can develop during perimenopause – and those with existing arthritic and/or rheumatic pain may find it’s exacerbated during the menopausal transition. Getting plenty of rest, using herbal aids, eating nutritious foods, fruits and are healthy strategies for fighting joint pains.
17. Muscle tension - an increase of aches and pains throughout the body muscles associated with soreness and stiffness in muscles. Exercise may help with this problem.
18. Breast tenderness – breast tenderness and/or pain may occur both before and during menopause. Consult your doctor if the pain is severe or persists for two months or more, also if the breast pain that is accompanied by a breast lump or nipple discharge.
19. Headache change – there may be an increase in the number and severity of headaches; or you may experience migraine headaches during perimenopause. Typically, if you don’t have a history of migraines, they will usually go away after perimenopause. Women who normally suffer “menstrual headaches” may see an increase as these headaches are caused by a drop in estrogen.
20. Gastrointestinal distress – may include indigestion, flatulence, and gas pain, nausea. While annoying these symptoms are not usually cause for concern. Use over-the-counter medications, or flat ginger ale. Some women also develop acid reflux (Gerd) which can cause an uncomfortable feeling of severe burning sensations in the throat. If it persists, see your doctor.
21. Bloating – is a periodic increase in fluid retention and abdominal distension. Bloating and water retention are common complaints during perimenopause. Also, acid reflux and heartburn are very common during perimenopause.
22. Depression – is common during any change in life, particularly if you are prone to it. However you can try various methods to overcome it including relaxation, exercise, counseling and group support. If your depression significantly impacts your daily life you should consider consulting a mental health specialist.
23. Memory loss – many women approaching menopause often complain of memory loss and an inability to concentrate. Misplaced car keys, skipped appointments, words mispronounced or forgotten, and failure to remember important dates are very common and are a normal symptom of menopause. It is mostly associated with low levels of estrogen and with high stress levels. If you look around you you will also see men having the same problem as they age.
24. Allergies – women who suffer from allergies may find that their allergies are worse during the menopausal years. Many women who’ve never had allergy or respiratory problems may develop them as histamine levels may be affected by hormone levels. Women can develop wheezing, coughing and a host of respiratory problems. This generally disappears as the hormones level out once a woman becomes menopausal.
25. Weight gain - weight gain may occur in menopausal women because they’re older and their metabolism is slowing down, other studies indicate that hormone levels are tied to weight gain and redistribution of fat. Weight can be controlled in the same manner as other stages of life as long as you follow appropriate diet and exercise recommendations.
26. Hair loss or thinning – can occur on the head or whole body. It may also get drier and more brittle. Unfortunately there may also be an increase in facial hair. There is often a loss of pubic hair during menopause. Some women are more comfortable simply shaving their pubic area instead of having patches of hair.
27. Dizziness – along with light-headedness or episodes of loss of balance is a common complaint during menopause. It is usually transient, however if it persists you should consult your doctor who may check your blood pressure, as well as for signs of stroke.
28. Body odor – relatively uncommon but may occur, particularly after night sweats. A shower or bath should control daily problems. If it persists you may need to consult a doctor.
29. Electric shock – sensation of a “rubber band snapping against the skin” or in the head, may be related to the effect of fluctuating estrogen levels on nerve tissue. It can also be the precursor to a hot flash. Many women experience this during perimenopause, but it usually passes.
30. Tingling – may feel like the “creepy-crawlies” as if bugs were walking all over you, a burning sensation like an insect sting, or just super-sensitivity particularly in your hands and legs. In most cases, tingling, known as neuropathy, is harmless as long as it doesn’t persist. It usually occurs after you pinch a nerve or press on an artery and reduce blood flow in your arm or leg causing it to “fall asleep.” When you change body position and relieve the compression, the tingling quickly should go away. Any unexplained tingling that affects an entire side of your body, or is accompanied by muscle weakness, warrants immediate medical attention.
31. Gum problems – gum bleeding is a sign of inflamed gums, or “gingivitis.” If taken care of quickly gingivitis is easily resolved – visit your dentist, have your teeth cleaned once every six months, brush after eating, and always floss at least once a day.
32. Burning mouth - is a complex, difficult condition in which a burning pain occurs on your tongue or lips, or over widespread areas involving your whole mouth without visible signs of irritation. The disorder has long been associated with a variety of other conditions, including menopause. It affects up to 5 percent of U.S. adults, women seven times more often than men. It generally occurs after age 60.
33. Osteoporosis – is a degenerative bone disorder where there is thinning and weakening of the bone, and a general decrease in the bone mass and density. This means that they are much more susceptible to breaks and fractures. As you age your body’s ability to build bones decreases and you start to lose bone density, especially after age 35. During menopause your estrogen levels drop – estrogen is involved in the process of calcium absorption into the bones. All women will experience acceleration in bone density reduction as their estrogen levels drop.
34. Brittle Fingernails- fingernails and toenails may peel or break easily which is usually caused by inflammation of the skin around the nail or by an infection. Menopausal hormonal imbalance may change the quality and texture of your nails, so it is important to keep them clean and out of situations that can damage them such as prolonged immersion in water, cold or hot, and excessive dryness.