How much do you really know about the symptoms of menopause? Hot flushes and night sweats are among the more commonly recognised side effects of this midlife hormonal shift, yet there are plenty of other far less familiar related symptoms. Some more life-affecting than others, but because so many women still don’t feel able to open up, many of us don’t even realise the physical and emotional symptoms we’re experiencing are hormone-related.
Hot flushes and night sweats. 75% of menopausal women experience hot flushes and night sweats which can affect women for an average of five years during menopause.
Irregular periods and shortened intervals between periods often happen in early menopause.
Increased libido can occur prior to starting menopause, when your body can have a dramatic surge in oestrogen. You might find yourself wanting more sex than you did before.
Vaginal dryness affects half of post-menopausal women aged between 51 and 60 according to a survey by Menopause Matters.
Mood swings were studied by experts at the University of Calgary in Canada, who tracked 282 women going through menopause. Mood swings affected 78 of them.
Breast soreness can happen at this transitional time when your periods slow and finally stop. The change in hormone production is what causes it. Breasts can also appear less full due to the change in oestrogen levels.
Headaches during menopause can be more common amongst women who suffered with them during their periods. They are common, but should they persist, a doctor visit is recommended.
Joint pain. A recent study has shed new light on a little-known type of arthritis known as ‘menopausal arthritis’ which affects women at the onset of the menopause and causes moderate to severe pain and swelling in mainly the fingers and wrists.
Burning tongue. Oestrogen plays an important role in the formation of saliva, therefore, once oestrogen levels decrease this can cause burning mouth syndrome. This condition is where burning pain occurs in widespread areas across your whole mouth including your tongue, lips, roof of mouth and cheeks.
Electric shocks. It is a certain fact that the female hormones behave erratically in perimenopause and menopause and in some women, this can lead to increased levels of electric shocks. Although an electrical shock sensation can happen at any time, it is known to often occur immediately before a hot flush.
Digestive problems. Oestrogen helps keep the stress hormone cortisol in check. But when oestrogen runs low, cortisol increases, which in turn has an impact on our digestive system. Common digestive problems include bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, weight gain, flatulence and nausea.
Gum problems and experiencing a metallic taste in the mouth affects between 10 to 40 per cent of menopausal women, according to research.
Muscle Tension is the feeling that muscles are always tight or strained, sometimes to the point of chronic pain and is closely related to stress and anxiety.
Itchy skin. Lower oestrogen levels in your body can lower collagen levels, which can lead to thinner and dryer skin.
Tingling Extremities while not a common menopause or post-menopause symptom, can be unsettling and unpleasant. This tingling can affect any part of the body, though it commonly occurs in the feet, legs, arms, and hands.
Anxiety. Did you know that mental changes and feelings of anxiety stemming from the menopause may strike as many as one in three women?
Fatigue. A quarter of women report suffering from extreme cases of tiredness during menopause.
Hair loss and other hair changes can start in the run-up to and during menopause. Hair thinning during menopause is difficult to counteract. Nobody over 40 will have the same volume of hair they had in their twenties, but menopause can be an extra and accelerating cause of hair loss.
Sleep disorders. The years from peri-to-post menopause are when women report the most sleeping problems, says the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, as many as 61% percent report symptoms of insomnia.
Difficulty concentrating. Oestrogen is a “master regulator”, it regulates your brain, pushing it to burn glucose to make energy. As oestrogen declines the brain doesn’t work as hard, so energy levels in the brain decline and can cause a general lack of focus and concentration.
Memory lapses caused by fatigue and hormonal changes can make you more forgetful than usual. But these memory lapses are usually only temporary.
Unexplained dizziness is often overlooked but dizziness and vertigo are not uncommon during menopause and are thought to be caused by hormone fluctuations, in particular, a drop-in oestrogen production.
Weight gain resulting from hormonal changes during menopause can be combatted with a healthy diet and exercise as the metabolism slows.
Stress incontinence can happen around the time of menopause, although natural ageing rather than hormones may be the main factor here.
Bloating is not uncommon during menopause and is often most commonly experienced during the preliminary peri-menopause stage.
Allergies can sometimes occur with a change in hormone levels. You may discover that you are allergic to things that you never had a problem with before because hormones are so closely linked to the body’s immune system.
Brittle nails can be caused by lower oestrogen levels, which lead to dehydration. This ’dryness’ can affect your whole body, including hair and skin.
Body odour changes can happen because menopausal women may find they sweat more than usual. Hormonal changes can also change the way you smell.
Irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations can be caused by lower menopausal oestrogen levels overstimulating the nervous and circulatory systems. It’s important to get this checked out though, in case a cardiac condition is to blame.
Depression is four times more likely to affect women of menopausal age, compared to women under 45.
Irritability and feelings of sadness are the most common emotional symptoms of menopause. Often, they can be managed through lifestyle changes, such as learning ways to relax and reduce stress.
Panic disorder. Fluctuations in hormone levels unfortunately means that menopausal women are more susceptible to panic attacks than almost anyone else. There are lots of lifestyle changes and natural remedies that can assist with managing anxiety and panic attacks.
Osteoporosis can be a high-risk factor after menopause. Some women will experience a 20% drop in bone density five to seven years after the menopause, which makes them at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, according to nhs.co.uk. This rapid dip in bone density is caused by falling levels of oestrogen.
Don’t dismay! Although the list of possible menopausal symptoms is long, not all women will experience all or any of them. And in most cases, they are manageable with the right advice, lifestyle changes and treatment.