Menopause is a natural process in women's lives that involves several changes in mental and physical health. These changes are known as "menopause symptoms."
Menopause symptoms are very common among women in middle age. In fact, more than 70% of them will eventually experience menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and loss of libido. The main cause of menopause symptoms is the changes in hormone levels during the transition.
Indeed, most women show early symptoms while still menstruating. This phase of gradually declining and fluctuating hormone levels is known as perimenopause, which often starts in a woman's forties. Menopause symptoms typically last for the whole menopause transition (until the mid-fifties), but some women may experience them for the rest of their life, even into postmenopause.
We have grouped the various menopause symptoms - of which over 30 have been identified - according to their main characteristics. There are five groups.
These menopause symptoms are more common than any others, and for this reason, it is important for women to be informed about them.
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
This group involves the menopause symptoms that produce a change in mental or physical health compared to the premenopausal years.
- Hair loss or thinning
- Sleep disorders, namely insomia
- Weight gain
- Memory lapses
- Difficulty concentrating
Here, you'll find all the menopause symptoms related to psychological well-being.
- Mood Swings
Menopause symptoms that produce physical pain are:
- Migraines & Headaches
- Breast Tenderness
- Aching, sore joints, muscles, and tendons
In this group, you'll find the rest of the menopause symptoms that have not been listed in any of the categories above.
Bouts of rapid heart beat
These bouts of rapid heartbeat scare a lot of women because of their sudden onset with seemingly no way to stop them. This partly accounts for the sleeping troubles during perimenopause. However, uncommonly, this pounding can mean something other than hormonal imbalance, so it's very important for a woman who is experiencing this symptom to report it to her doctor.
Burning mouth syndrome is a complex condition in which a burning pain occurs on your tongue or lips, or even over widespread areas involving your whole mouth, without visible signs of irritation. If you have persistent pain or soreness in your tongue, lips, gums, or other areas of your mouth, see your doctor or dentist.
Changes in body odor
The intensity of body odor that can occur during menopause may lead women to think that they have a serious medical problem, when in most cases it is related to hormonal imbalance and increased sweating from hot flashes and night sweats.
Changes in fingernails; softer nails that crack or break more easily
Nails that take on a convex, spoon-like appearance may indicate respiratory deficiency or simply that you're not getting enough iron. Nibbled nails and hangnails can reveal your anxiety level. A persistently painful and inflamed fingernail or toenail requires your doctor's attention.
Brittleness, which is most common during menopause, can stem from hormonal imbalance and be worsened by bad habits.
Dizziness is a transient spinning sensation or a feeling of lightheadedness or unsteadiness, as well as the inability to maintain balance upon standing or walking. Dizziness is a symptom of many medical conditions. 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.
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, may be related to the effect of fluctuating estrogen levels on both the skin and the nervous system. It can also be the precursor to a hot flash. If the symptom gets intense, contact you doctor for further assistance.
Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
This entails a significant and debilitating emotional state characterized by overwhelming fear and anxiety. These feelings can be vague or intense and 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, it is recommended you contact your doctor.
Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
Changes in gastrointestinal function with excessive gas production, gastrointestinal cramping, and nausea may become more common during menopause. 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. You have to worry if sores develop under your dentures or if there is swelling, puffiness, or soreness in your bleeding gums. Take advice from your dentist in these cases.
Incontinence, especially upon sneezing or laughing
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 is completely losing the sensation that you have to go. You should see your doctor if you urinate when you do not intend to because you have no sensation that your bladder is full.
Increase in allergies
Many types of allergies can be affected by hormone levels, since hormones also have a role in regulating the immune system. This is particularly true of women who experience increasing symptoms as they undergo hormonal changes, usually in their late twenties or after they give birth.
Increased tension in muscles
An increase in aches and pains throughout the body may be related to age and hormonal imbalance. Women whose general health is good are apt to have less tension than those women suffering from poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise. Exercise helps boost endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, so it may help improve mood and has been found to significantly reduce many physical and psychological symptoms related to hormonal imbalance.
Occasional irritability is a normal part of being human, but irritability also can go hand in hand with hormonal imbalance. If your irritability persists more than a week and is adversely affecting your job performance and relationships with your family, friends, and coworkers, it is recommended to see your doctor.
Itchy, crawly skin
When your estrogen levels drop, your collagen production usually slows down as well. Collagen is responsible for keeping the skin toned, fresh-looking, and resilient. When you start running low on collagen, it often shows in your skin. It gets thinner, drier, flakier, and less youthful-looking, and itchy areas may appear.
Sudden bouts of bloating
This is a puffy, bloated feeling that seems to come out of nowhere; usually, you'll notice periodic increases in fluid retention and abdominal distension. This is often related to hormonal imbalance that results in increased fluid retention. In some cases, this gassiness, bloating, and discomfort can occur after eating dairy foods and may indicate newly-developed lactose intolerance. It means your stomach is unable to digest the lactose - or milk sugar - in dairy foods. If you have persistent, unexplained bloating or stomach pain for more than three days, then you should contact you doctor.
Tingling in the extremities
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." 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.