34 Menopause Symptoms
Menopausal symptoms affect about 70% of women approaching menopause. Typical menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes or night sweats, are caused by changing hormonal levels in the female reproductive system. Almost all women notice early symptoms while still having periods. This stage of gradually falling and fluctuating hormone levels is called perimenopause, which often begins in the early 40s.
The symptoms of menopause usually last for the whole menopause transition (until the mid 50s), but some women may experience them for the rest of their lives. The most common symptoms are: Hot Flashes, Night Sweats, Irregular Periods, Loss of Libido, and Vaginal Dryness.
However, there are a variety of treatments that can be considered to deal with these symptoms.
- Hot Flashes, Flushes and/or Cold Sweats
About 75 to 85% of American women are estimated to get hot flashes when they're in menopause. Hot flashes, which can be felt like a sudden, transient sensation of warmth or heat that spreads over the body creating a flushing (redness) particularly noticeable on the face and upper body. Whether your own hot flashes are experienced as delicate flushes or the engulfing flames, rest assured they're normal.
Hot flashes are the body's reaction to a decreased supply of the hormone estrogen, which occurs naturally as women approach menopause. Not all women experience hot flashes, but more than half do. In some, estrogen production decreases gradually, producing few hot flashes. But for others, the ovaries stop estrogen production abruptly (same case as surgical menopause). For these women, hot flashes can be a real roller-coaster ride.
- Night Sweats
- Night sweats is the evening cousin of hot flashes, but typically more intense. Night sweats, which is also known as "nocturnal hyperhydrosis", isn't actually a sleep disorder, but it is a common perspiration disorder that occurs during sleep.
- Irregular Periods, Menstrual Irregularity
- Loss of Libido
- Sex therapists say tha low libido becomes a problem that should be addressed only when it is perceived as a problem. "It's usually only in the framework of a relationship that it becomes an issue" Dr. Zussman says. "It's when there is a discrepancy in desire between the person and partner, or when people feel there's something wrong with them because they have a low level of desire."
Everyone experiences peaks and valleys in sexual desire, an ebb and flow in libido that could be caused by any of a variety of factors. Occasionally, a hormonal imbalance or prescription drug will sap sex drive. And, of course, there's a difference between sexual drive and sexual function.
- Vaginal Dryness
- It's basically a loss of the usual 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.
As we said, vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy occur when your estrogen levels drop. Your vagina is usually very elastic, able to easily stretch for sex and childbirth. But as estrogen levels go down, your vaginal walls get thinner and lose some of their elasticity. Your vagina becomes dryer and takes longer to become lubricated. Finally, it may atrophy -- becoming somewhat smaller in
width and length. This symptom may appear due to a sudden drop in estrogen
(such as you do with surgical menopause), also, it can be experienced when going through a natural premature menopause. Either way, though, it's a very
unpleasant menopause symptom; it can be very emotionally upsetting when you're in your 20s or 30s.
- Mood Swings, Sudden Tears
- A person with a mood problem is like a human roller coaster. One minute he's up, the next minute he's down. He never seems to be able to get off the ride. His mood swings are intense, sudden and out of control. Chronic and severe mood swings are a psychological disorder, a health problem every bit as real as a physical ailment. In fact, sometimes they're the result of a physical problem, like a premenstrual syndrome. And just like a physical problem, they can be treated. You should contact your doctor to get more advice.
- "Fatigue is second only to pain as the most common symptom doctors see in patients," says David S. Bell, M.D., a chronic fatigue researcher at Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts. "One-fourth of all Americans will have long episodes of lethargy and tiredness." Particularly common in women undergoing the menopausal transition, chronic fatigue can have a drastic impact on daily life, putting a strain on relationships, work productivity, and quality of life.
Fatigue, one of the most common menopause symptoms, is defined as an ongoing and persistent feeling of weakness, tiredness, and lowered energy level. This should be distinguished from drowsiness, which implies an actual urge to sleep. Fatigue involves lack of energy rather than sleepiness. If the fatigue comes on suddenly, it could be a sign of crashing fatigue. To learn more about Crashing Fatigue, click here. Other characteristics may include apathy, irritability, and decreased attention.
- Hair Loss or Thinning, Head, Pubic, or Whole Body; Increase in Facial Hair
- Connected to estrogen deficiency, since the hair follicles need estrogen; some women notice this before any other sign because it is obvious. Hair loss can be sudden or gradual loss or thinning of hair on your head or on other parts of your body. You'll notice hair in your brush, your hair may also get drier and more brittle or notice a thinning or loss of pubic hair. A gradual loss or thinning of hair without any accompanying symptoms is common. However, hair loss that is accompanied by general ill health requires your doctor's attention.
- Menopause Sleep Disorder (with or without Night Sweats)
- If you're waking up a lot at night, tossing and turning, and generally suffering with insomnia, it might be connected with menopause. When you begin going through menopause, you may find that your sleep is less and less restful, when you sleep at all.
In the past, doctors believed that interrupted sleep was a consequence of night sweats, but recent studies indicate that you can also have problems with sleep that aren't connected to hot flashes. Typically, the frequency of insomnia doubles from the amount you may have had before you entered premature menopause. And research also indicates that women begin to experience restless sleep as many as five to seven years before entering menopause. Again, though, the problem is recognizing that the insomnia you're suffering from has its roots in changes in your hormone levels.
- Difficult Concentrating, Disorientation, Mental Confusion
- During early menopause, many women are troubled to find they have difficulty remembering things, experience mental blocks or have trouble concentrating. Not getting enough sleep or having sleep disrupted can contribute to memory and concentration problems.
If your doctor determines that your disorientation isn't caused by a serious medical condition, then you might consider these possibilities: -Investigate your drugs. -Disorientation is a side effect of some drugs. -Learn to relax. -Practice stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga and meditation and try to be physically active on a regular basis.
- Disturbing Memory Lapse
- Memory loss affects most people in one way or another. More often than not, it is a momentary memory lapse; nothing to worry about - it happens to the best of us. However, when memory lapses begin to become a regular occurrence, it is wise to dig a little deeper and seek medical advice.
Women approaching menopause often complain of memory loss and an inability to concentrate. Misplaced car keys, skipped appointments, and forgotten birthdays, but these memory lapses are a normal symptom of menopause. It is mostly associated with low levels of estrogen and with high stress levels.
- Dizziness, Light Headedness, Episodes of Loss of Balance
- Dizziness is a transient spinning sensation and/or a feeling of lightheadedness or unsteadiness; also, the inability to maintain balance upon standing or walking. Dizziness is a symptom of many medical conditions. There are things that people can do to cope with their dizziness. But if you experience an unexplained dizzy spell, see your doctor, because you can't be sure if it's a trivial problem or a symptom of a serious illness.
- Weight Gain during Menopause
- Incontinence, especially upon Sneezing, Laughing, Urge
- Incontinence falls into three main categories, although people can leak through because of a combination of causes. First, there's stress incontinence, in which you urinate accidentally when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exert yourself. This happens either when the bladder neck shifts position out of reach of the internal muscles that put pressure on it or when those muscles themselves fail to work effectively, because of age, surgery or childbirth. The second one is urge incontinence, in which the bladder develops a "mind of its own," contracting and emptying whenever full despite an individual's conscious efforts to resist. And last, overflow incontinence, in which you completely lose the sensation that you have to go. You should see your doctor if you urinate when you shouldn't, because you have no sensation that your bladder is full.
- Sudden Bouts of Bloat
- A puffy bloated feeling that seems to come out of nowhere; usually you'll notice bouts which are a periodic increases in fluid retention and abdominal distension.
Doctors call the gassiness, bloating and discomfort that occur after eating dairy foods lactose intolerance. It means your stomach is unable to digest the lactose -or milk sugar- in dairy foods. Unfortunately, most adults have this problem to some degree, according to Jay A. Perman, M.D., as people age, they produce less lactase -the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Without lactase, the undigested milk sugar ferments and gases form. The trapped gas makes your stomach bloat. If you have persistent, unexplained bloating or stomach pain for more than three days, then you should contact you doctor.
- Increase in Allergies
- Many types of allergy have their basis in hormone reactions. This is particularly true of ladies who experience increasing symptoms as they undergo hormone changes, usually in their late twenties or after the babies are born. Hormone imbalance is a type of allergic reaction experienced by women from before puberty to old age. It is a heightened reaction to the normal function of hormones.
- Changes in Fingernails-Softer, Crack or Break Easier
- A black or blue nail tells the world that you and your hammer had a problem. Reddish yellow nails demonstrate that you change your nail polish often. Nails that split and break can be a sign that you're spending too much time with your hands in the sink. Nails that take on a convex, spoon like appearance may mean respiratory deficiency or simply that you're not getting enough iron. Nibbled nails and hangnails can betray your anxiety level. Fingernail and toenail problems are usually caused by inflammation of the skin around the nail or by an infection. A persistently painful and inflammed fingernail or toenail requires your doctor's attention.
- Changes in Body Odor
- Have you ever heard the saying: "body odor is the smell of sweat"? Well, it may be partly true. In fact, our bodies make two types of sweat: eccrine sweat, which is odorless, is present all over the body, and is used to control the temperature of the whole organism. The other type of sweat is aprocrine, a stronger substance produced by the glands under the arm. Apocrine sweat is odorless too, until bacteria on the skin surface acts upon it.
The smell of this sweat may be more intense in people with inadequate hygiene, or merely have bad genes. How to reduce the body odor? Use a deodorant soap whenever you take a shower. Antibacterial soaps will solve the problem because it's the bacteria that are producing the odor. The antibacterial soap will do all the work; making scrub unnecessary.
- Bouts of Rapid Heart Beat
- A pounding, racing heart is the second most common complaint associated with perimenopause. These bouts of rapid heart beat scare a lot of women because of their sudden onset, unexpected arrivals, and seemingly no way to stop them. This partially accounts for the sleeping troubles during perimenopause. This pounding can mean something other than perimenopause, so it's very important for a woman who is experiencing this symptom to report it to her doctor.
There are a couple of things you can do when the pounding begins. First relax and take deep breaths. Try to reassure yourself that this only a symptom of perimenopause and it will pass. If you are in bed when this occurs, change your position and do some deep breathing.
- Feelings of sadness can be normal, appropriate and even necessary during life's setbacks or losses. Or you may feel blue or unhappy for short periods of time without reason or warning, which also is normal and ordinary. But if such feelings persist or impair your daily life, you may have a depressive disorder. Severity, duration and the presence of other symptoms are the factors that distinguish ordinary sadness from a depressive disorder. This is called: Depression, or irritability, which is a significant change in mood for an extended period of time associated with loss of interest in usual activities, sleep and eating disorders, and withdrawal from family and friends.
Depression can happen to anyone of any age. It afflicts almost 19 million Americans each year, and up to one in five American women will suffer from clinical depression at some point in her life. Women are two to three times more likely than men to suffer from depression. Many women first experience symptoms of depression during their 20s and 30s.
- Anxiety, Feeling Ill at Ease
- Anxiety can be a vague or intense feeling caused by physical or psychological conditions. A feeling of agitation and loss of emotional control that may be associated with panic attacks and physical symptoms such as rapid heart beat, shortness of breath and palpitations. The frequency of anxiety can range from a one-time event to recurring episodes. Early diagnosis may aid early recovery, prevent the disorder from becoming worse and possibly prevent the disorder from developing into depression.
- A significant change in mood for an extended period of time associated with loss of interest in usual activities, sleep and eating disorders, and withdrawal from family and friends. "Occasional irritability is a normal part of being human," says Paul Horton, M.D., a psychiatrist in Meriden, Connecticut. "But irritability also can go hand in hand with almost any illness. Very often, people who are falling ill will become irritable but don't know why."
If your irritability persists more than a week and is adversely affecting your job performance and relationships with your family, friends and co-workers, better see your doctor. Click here for more information about irritability during menopause.
- Panic Disorder, Feelings of Dread, Apprehension, Doom
- A 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. If your life is totally disrupted by this symptom, better contact your doctor.
- Breast Pain
- Pain, soreness, or tenderness in one or both breasts often precedes or accompanies menstrual periods but can also occur during pregnancy, breast-feeding, and menopause. It can be resumed in a generalized discomfort and pain associated with touching or application of pressure to breast. 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.
- Headaches during Menopause
- Though headaches can be caused by a variety of factors such as muscle tension, drinking too much alcohol or can occur with common illnesses such as the flu.
During the early stages of menopause, you may find that you're getting more and worse headaches. This is often caused by your dropping estrogen levels. Many women with regular menstrual cycles get headaches just before their periods or at ovulation. These headaches, sometimes called "menstrual migraines" occur when estrogen levels plunge during the menstrual cycle. So, when your body begins slowing down its production of estrogen due to premature menopause, you may wind up getting one of these hormonally-induced headaches. Severe headaches that are accompanied by confusion or high fever can indicate a serious health condition and require your doctor's immediate attention.
- Aching, Sore Joints, Muscles and Tendons
- Aching Joints and muscle problems is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. It is thought that more than half of all postmenopausal women experience varying degrees of joint pain. Joint pain is basically an unexplained soreness in muscles and joints, which are unrelated to trauma or exercise, but may be related to immune system effects mostly caused by fluctuating hormone levels. It is not wise to ignore these aches and pains. Early treatment can often bring about a cure and prevent further development of arthritis. Getting plenty of rest, using herbal aids, eating nutritious foods, preferably organic food, fruits and vegetables-and avoiding known toxins and stimulants, are healthy strategies for fighting joint pains.
- Burning Tongue, Burning Roof of Mouth, Bad Taste in
Mouth, Change in Breath Odor
- Burning mouth syndrome is a complex, vexing 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. But it may occur in younger people as well. If you have persistent pain or soreness in your tongue, lips, gums or other areas of your mouth, see your doctor.
- Electric Shock Sensation Under the Skin And In The Head
- A peculiar "electric" sensation, or the feeling of a rubber band snapping in the layer of tissue between skin and muscle, that may be related to the effect of fluctuating estrogen levels on nerve tissue. It can also be the precursor to a hot flash. If the symptom gets intense, contact you doctor for further assistance.
- Digestive Problems, Gastrointestinal Distress,
Indigestion, Flatulence, Gas Pain, Nausea
- Changes in gastrointestinal function with excessive gas production, gastrointestinal cramping and nausea.
A certain amount of flatulence is perfectly natural, but people who switch to a healthy diet sometimes worry unnecessarily that they're producing too much. So if you're eating lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which means a healthy diet, it's likely that your digestive system is churning out a healthy amount of gas. If you have gas and stomach or abdominal pain for more than three days, or if the pain is more severe than before, you should see your doctor immediately.
- Gum Problems, Increased Bleeding
- The most common gum problem is bleeding, and it's a sign of inflamed gums, or what dentists call gingivitis. But gingivitis is just the overture for more serious problems.
Bleeding and sore gums are the same as most health problems: If you catch them before they get too bad, they're easy to reverse. "Gingivitis is absolutely reversible in the earlier stages," says Dr. Allen.To put bleeding gums in reverse, put your hands on floss and a toothbrush. But make sure to hold that toothbrush the right way. You have to worry if sores develop under your dentures or if there is swelling, puffiness, soreness in your bleeding gums. Take advice from your doctor in these cases.
- Increased Tension in Muscles
- An increase of aches and pains throughout the body muscles associated with soreness and stiffness in muscles. Women whose general health and resistance are good are apt to have less premenstrual tension than those women suffering from poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise.
There are some things you can do to try to keep symptoms to a minimum: Exercise helps boost endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, so it may help improve moods and has been found to significantly reduce many physical and psychological PMS symptoms. Next time you have a build-up of tension or anxiety, try to run it off.
- Itchy, Crawly Skin
- When your estrogen levels drop, your collagen production usually slows down as well. Collagen is responsible for keeping our skin toned, fresh-looking, resilient. So when you start running low on collagen, it shows in your skin. It gets thinner, drier, flakier, less youthful-looking.
This is another of those symptoms of menopause that makes you feel older before your time and, in this case, it's clear why. You may look a little older than you used to. Worst, this sign often shows up early in menopause. Collagen loss is most rapid at the beginning of menopause. It is possible that premature menopause also leads to more rapid collagen loss.
- Tingling Extremities
- This 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. In most cases, tingling is harmless. 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 goes away. But tingling can also be a symptom of any number of problems, including anxiety, a herniated spinal disk, poor blood circulation, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome or a tumor. Any unexplained tingling that affects an entire side of your body or is accompanied by muscle weakness, warrants immediate medical attention.
- Osteoporosis (After Several Years)
- 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.
Menopause does affect your bones. Normally your bones will go through a process where old bone is replaced by new bone cells. When you are young your body makes more new bone than it takes away in old bone. Your body's ability to handle this process changes with age, so that by the time you are about 35 there is less bone building than there is bone removal. During the 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.
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