Symptoms during menopause can vary tremendously and can change over time. Menowar has documented forty symptoms, so it can be a wild ride! But rest assured that if you are experiencing these symptoms, you are likely NORMAL. However, a consultation with your physician is always recommended to discuss your symptoms and ensure that no other health conditions are present. We often think of the typical physical manifestations of menopause, but fluctuating hormones can cause many other brain and psychological impacts as well. Rest assured – there are many treatments and therapy options that can help!
One important note – hot flashes can actually be dangerous
- They can disrupt sleep, cause mood changes, create difficulty concentrating, & impair short-term memory.
- In one study, frequent hot flashes and night sweats were associated with a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- And, if these hot flashes and night sweats persisted over time, then there was a 77% increased risk of later cardiovascular disease.
- They are also connected to osteoporosis, diabetes, cancers, etc.
Your periods can appear and disappear, and bleeding can be erratic. Remember that a woman officially enters menopause when she has had 12 consecutive months without a period.
Some women have heavy “crime scene periods,” where their bleeding requires changing tampons or pads every 1-2 hours. When your estrogen levels are higher than your progesterone levels, the uterine lining grows and leads to more bleeding. You should always consult your doctor, as they need to rule out other potential medical issues.
More appropriately termed, hot flushes, these affect women as estrogen levels fluctuate. This instantaneous heat is more prominent and can reduce redness in the top half of the body. They can occur just once a day, or many, many times each day, with each instance lasting seconds to several minutes. Hot flashes and night sweats (below) are collectively called vasomotor symptoms (VMS) and affect more than 80% of women.
These are hot flushes that occur at night – usually while you are sleeping – and affect about 75% of women experiencing menopause. They can cause you to wake up in a heavy sweat, with your sheets soaked with sweat. Sometimes this further contributes to your sleep disruptions and leaves you feeling dehydrated and “off” when you wake up.
Instead of, or in addition to, hot flushes, some women also get chills during menopause. The fluctuating hormones during menopause and perimenopause can cause a dysfunction in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. So this can make you feel too hot, or bone-deep cold, in a flash.
Menopause can affect sleep quality – from difficulty falling asleep to staying asleep. Many women can wake up at 3 or 4 am and not be able to fall back asleep for days on end. This can make all of the other symptoms, especially the cognitive and mood-related ones, feel much worse.
With your body changing so much at once, you can suffer from fatigue and feel incredibly tired during menopause. You just don’t have the energy you did prior to menopause and can’t keep up the pace.
Many women can have achy joints, stiffness, and even swelling during menopause. Estrogen is responsible for regulating fluid levels in the body, which helps lubricate joints. When estrogen levels fall, you may experience joint pain.
If you were more prone to headaches or migraines during your period, you have a higher likelihood of having them during perimenopause and menopause. Up to 29% of women experiencing menopause also have migraines and many more have frequent headaches.
As estrogen declines, so do moisture levels in the skin, including your vulva (outside of your vagina). 58% of menopausal women experience vaginal dryness. This area can become sensitive or irritated and may lead to decreased libido as a result of painful sex, itchiness, and soreness.
Hormonal shifts can lead to the dreaded weight gain, especially around the midsection, despite potentially eating well and exercising. Previously it was thought that declining estrogen levels were the main culprit, but recent research indicates that rising follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), a hormone that causes eggs to develop in the ovaries, may contribute to weight gain, along with age, genetics, and increased insulin resistance.
Tender breasts are a signal of hormonal changes and usually occur during your period, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.
If you had anxiety prior to menopause, even if you have been treated, during menopause it can come back, morph, or be heightened; panic attacks can also occur. Sometimes treatments for anxiety that worked prior to menopause are not as effective as they were before. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a trained mental health professional.
Decreased estrogen levels also lead to decreased sex drive. Plus, with all of the physical symptoms, cognitive and mental challenges, and sleep disruptions – well no wonder you may not be in the mood!
This is one of those symptoms that often surprise folks. Menopause can lead to less saliva in the mouth, resulting in dry mouth or “burning mouth syndrome,” a burning sensation throughout your lips, tongue, inside of your cheeks, throat, and the roof of your mouth.
The hormone declines during menopause can cause a bone density drop by about 20% in postmenopausal women. As such, the risk of osteoporosis can increase during this time. And though both men and women suffer a loss of bone density with age, the sudden reduction in estrogen associated with menopause has been shown to trigger an inflammatory reaction in some women that leads to a dramatic decrease in bone mass.
Hormones levels can also send your digestive system sideways. This can include bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, and just disagreement between certain foods and your digestive system.
Fluctuating estrogen levels can cause some stress to the cardiovascular and nervous systems, resulting in these uncomfortable jolts. This symptom is less common, but one to be aware of and discuss with your doctor should this happen.
About 10-40% of women find that some foods taste different during or after menopause, or they experience a metallic taste in their mouth. The culprit is a hormone imbalance, which can affect your taste buds and make you more sensitive to pain.
Menopause signifies a significant change in women’s hormones, making you more susceptible to conditions affecting your oral health, such as dry mouth, gum recession, tooth pain, gum disease, and more. It’s a good idea to check in with your dentist during this time.
Because your hormones and your immune system are closely linked, menopause can put your allergies into overdrive. This can include heightened sensitivity to things that you have been allergic to before menopause, or new allergies, which can take the form of respiratory or skin issues.
Similarly, decreased levels of estrogen can lead to decreased collagen levels. With less collagen comes more dryness and irritation. It’s key to keep moisturized!
Similar to during puberty, the changes and imbalances in hormone levels during menopause can compromise the immune system and is likely to upset your cortisol and insulin balance, which can affect your skin as well. Often women get more cystic acne on the lower half of the face during this time.
During menopause, a woman’s body stops circulating estrogen but continues to circulate the same amounts of testosterone. The imbalance of hormones causes the appearance of some male secondary sex characteristics, like coarse facial hair.
It’s common to have your moods change from one minute to the next and to experience more intense emotions during menopause. Women predisposed to hormone-associated mood issues, such as post-partum depression, premenstrual syndrome, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, are more likely to experience this during menopause.
Similar to the above, peaked irritability during menopause due to hormone fluctuation is very common, just like PMS. Little things that wouldn’t bother you before can send you into atypical bouts of rage. Who wouldn’t be pissed by all of this turmoil in their body?!
Our muscles can feel more sensitive, and we can have greater muscular tension during menopause. One other reason why mixing up your exercise routine during this stage is smart.
During menopause, changes in the perception of depth of vision can occur, which can affect your awareness of your surroundings. Your concentration can sometimes dip during this time, and your eyes can become drier. This can lead to clumsiness or being more accident-prone.
Rare, but certainly worthy of mention, is the sensation of tingling throughout your hands, feet, arms, and legs.
One of the unfortunate side effects of menopause can be thinning hair or hair loss.
Dehydration and decreased estrogen levels can lead to dry, brittle nails that break more easily.
Your short-term memory can be impacted; going into a room to do something and then completely forgetting your purpose is common! Many women in menopause also have word retrieval issues or forget names. Some fear that they are getting early dementia, but often, the impact is only temporary.
Along with memory lapses comes difficulty concentrating, due to lowered levels of estrogen. You may have a hard time focusing or you may feel like you are just in a dense fog and can’t activate your cognitive capabilities as well. Almost two-thirds of women describe having a “fuzzy brain,” which can be very disconcerting.
Occasional dizzy spells and/or lightheadedness are caused by changing estrogen levels.
As people progress through perimenopause, and estrogen levels continue to reduce, the muscles in the bladder and pelvic floor can weaken. More than 50% of postmenopausal women experience the frequent or urgent need to urinate, or some level of urinary incontinence. These symptoms are also referred to as the Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM).
Decreasing estrogen production can lead to thinning of your vaginal tissue, making it more prone to infection. In addition, changes in the lining of the bladder can result in the urogenital microbiome, reducing the natural defense mechanisms against UTIs. In postmenopausal women, UTI reoccurrence rates are 55%, compared to 19-36% in younger women.
Once again, decreased estrogen levels can overstimulate the nervous and circulatory systems. The effect is an irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations. Be sure to communicate these symptoms to your healthcare provider if they persist.
Shifts in your hormones can lead to more sweat. Furthermore, this change in hormones can impact your natural scent.
Hormonal changes can result in an accelerated rise in LDL cholesterol in the 12 months following menopause, boosting the possibility of heart disease.
All of the physical and emotional impacts you can feel during this time caused by hormonal imbalances; then add in the responsibilities of caring for children and/or aging parents, professional demands, and keeping up with a busy lifestyle – all of this can exacerbate depression tendencies or result in clinical depression. Please speak to a trained mental health-care professional if you are feeling depressed so you can get the treatment and/or support you need.
It is helpful to track your symptoms so you can share this information with your doctor, or other therapy or healthcare professional. Menowar provides a symptom tracker so you can monitor your symptoms ove time, including the frequency, duration, and severity of each. This information can help to determine which are most bothersome, potential correlation between other factors and your symptoms, and guide your discussions with healthcare providers. Menowar encourages frank and open conversations so you can receive the help you need – you don’t have to be a martyr and there’s no medal for “toughing it out!”
If you have any questions or want to work with Menowar on a customized menopause plan for you, schedule a free consultation here!
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.