Read on to know all about menopause symptoms.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is the permanent end of the menstruation and fertility. Menopause is the time of the woman’s last period. The symptoms may begin many years earlier. Perimenopause is the stage during which the hormone levels fluctuate or fall and this might last for some years, an average of 2 – 5 years. The various menopause symptoms include the following.
Hot flashes are a common symptom experienced by 75% of the menopausal women. It is sudden, transient sensation of warmth or heat in the body, particularly on the face and the upper part of the body. This is mainly due to the lower production levels of the hormone, estrogen. Depending on the various levels of hormone production, the experience of hot flashes can range between delicate flashes and a sensation of engulfing flames. The symptoms of hot flashes are intense feelings of heat in the face and neck, irregular heartbeat, sleep disturbances, perspiration and cold chills.
Night sweats are classified as severe hot flashes that occur during sleep followed by intensive sweating. This is a common perspiration disorder found in menopausal women. Night sweats can range from mild to severe and is caused by hormonal imbalance combined with the certain other factors like warm sleeping conditions. Common symptoms of night sweats include: sudden and intense heat, irregular heartbeat, nausea, flushing, chills, and headaches.
During menopausal period, it is quite common to have irregular periods. One of the major reasons is the fluctuating levels of hormone production and the decelerated functioning of the ovaries. Irregular periods would mean menstrual periods happening earlier or later than before, bleeding may be lighter or heavier than usual and periods can be short or long. Skipping periods and “spotting” (bleeding between periods) are also common symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Other symptoms are painful cramping, blood clots and changes in blood flow.
Loss of libido
Loss of libido is chiefly characterized by a lack of interest or desire for sexual activity and is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. The main cause of the low sex drive is hormonal imbalance, predominantly androgen deficiency. The other symptoms of menopause like vaginal dryness or depression can also be a reason for the loss of libido. In menopausal transition, this sudden drop in sexual desire can be alarming.
Vaginal dryness is defined as a lack of moisture in the vaginal area. This is a troubling condition found in 60% of women during the menopausal transition, which is due to the decreasing levels of estrogen in your body. Common symptoms of vaginal dryness include itching, burning and irritation, painful intercourse, light bleeding during sex, general discomfort, pressure, urinary frequency and stinging. Unresolved relationship problems can also result in decreased vaginal lubrication during sexual activity, loss of libido and problems with arousal.
Mood swings are defined as extreme or abrupt fluctuations in mood. During menopause, 50% of women commonly experience mood swings because their hormones, which regulate mood and emotions, are thrown off balance. Mood swings differ from woman to woman. Chronic and severe mood swings are a psychological disorder and need immediate medical attention. Common symptoms of mood swings are depression, anxiety, nervousness, lack of motivation, sadness, impatience, and aggression
Fatigue, one of the most common menopause symptoms, is a constant feeling of tiredness, weakness, drowsiness and inactiveness. It is found in 80% of the women during menopausal transition. Fatigue and dizziness are connected and they often appear during menopause due to changing hormone levels. Hormones play a role in controlling the sleep cycle. The thyroid and adrenal hormones are also involved in this process. Hormones are responsible for controlling energy at the cellular level, thus, when the hormone levels naturally decrease during menopause, so do a woman’s energy levels.
Hair loss or thinning
Hair loss or thinning is one of the most depressing symptoms of menopause, as a woman’s hair is associated with her femininity, sexuality, and individual sense of style. Hair loss may be gradual or sudden. Hair may also become drier and more brittle, and may fall out more while washing it or brushing. It is caused by estrogen deficiency as hair follicles need estrogen to sustain hair growth. Hair loss is a visible sign of aging and it is of concern to many women.
Sleep disorders found in women entering menopause differ from person to person. It includes waking many times during night, disturbed sleep by tossing and turning, insomnia, snoring and difficulty in getting to sleep. Night sweats can also disrupt the normal sleep pattern of a woman. Sleep disorders can also lead to further depression and anxiety.
Difficulty in concentrating is considered as an inevitable ageing sign in women; however it is a common symptom of menopause also. Many women find difficulty in remembering things, experience mental blocks, or have difficulty concentrating. The main cause for the difficulty in concentrating is hormonal imbalance, specifically estrogen deficiency. Difficulty concentrating is often experienced as the inability to concentrate on everyday as well as unusual or complex tasks. Along with this, women may experience disorientation, general forgetfulness, and lost trains of thought.
Memory lapses are considered to be the inability to remember or recall facts and information. Memory lapses are those crucial moments when a person loses the mental ability or faculty of retaining and recalling information. Memory lapses during menopause may cause difficulty in recollecting names, dates, addresses and other trifle events like which book they read a week before, where they left their cell phone and when did they go for last doctor visit. However, these memory lapses are a normal symptom of menopause, associated with low levels of estrogen and with high stress levels.
Dizziness is a momentary feeling of imbalance upon standing or while walking: a feeling that everything is spinning or whirling; or a feeling as if you are going to faint. Dizziness is always accompanied by unsteadiness and lightheadedness. As the levels of the hormones, estrogen and progesterone change during the menopausal transition, they can have an effect on circulation and blood vessels, resulting in bouts of dizziness as blood pressure fluctuate. The other symptoms like anxiety, hot flushes, and stress or panic attacks can also cause dizziness.
When women reach the menopause, their human body is susceptible to weight gain, specifically as a thickening around the waist. Weight gain during menopause is largely due to the hormonal imbalance your body will experience during this period. The low levels of testosterone hormone lead to a decreased metabolic rate and hence women need only fewer calories from menopause onwards. Changes in diet and exercise are necessary to revitalize the body’s metabolic rate and prevent weight gain during menopause. Here is a list of conditions weight gain can lead to: heart disease (stroke), high blood pressure, Osteoarthritis, breast cancer, high cholesterol, kidney disease, sleep apnea, diabetes
Incontinence, which is involuntary leaking of urine, is one of the urinary symptoms most common during menopause. As menopause approaches, lack of estrogen hormone can cause thinning of the lining of the urethra, the outlet for the urinary bladder and with aging, the surrounding pelvic muscles will become weak. This cause an increased risk for urinary incontinence. The symptoms of incontinence include; urine leaks due to stress like coughing, laughing, lifting or running, not enough time to reach a toilet once the urge to urinate is felt, urine continues to dribble after urinating, and continual leakage of urine.
Bloating is characterized by a feeling of tightness in the abdominal area and a pain or discomfort in the stomach. Bloating occurs in most women due to digestive issues or as a part of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome). This is mainly due to the intestinal gas and fluid retention caused by the low levels of hormone, estrogen which in turn lower the levels of bile. The intensity and duration will vary from woman to woman.
Allergies can be frustrating menopause symptoms, as they affect the daily life in different ways. Allergic symptoms can range from mild to severe; which mainly includes rashes, itchy- watery eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, itchiness, cramps, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and mental confusion. Hormone level fluctuations can have a significant impact on both the incidence of allergies and the severity of allergy symptoms.
The transition through menopause can make a woman’s nails more fragile and brittle. The characteristics of brittle nails are nail break, split or chip easily, sunken appearance of nails, color changes and ridges on the nail and feeling of dryness. The fundamental cause of brittle nails is dehydration or lack of moisture in the body. Estrogen plays a key role in body water regulation and water retention. During menopausal transition the levels of estrogen gradually deteriorate
Changes in Body Odor
Changes in body odor can make the menopausal women experiencing them very self-conscious. Body odor is a byproduct of sweat, the body’s natural cooling system. Hot flashes, night sweats, panic attacks, depression, anxiety; all these can lead to an increase in the incidence of sweating as well. More sweat leads to the changes in body odor. The lower levels of estrogen, the hormone responsible for helping regulate the part of the brain that controls the body temperature, is the major cause of increase in sweat production. The various parts of the body affected by the changes in odor are feet, armpits, mouth, hair and genital area.
One of the most concerning menopause symptoms is irregular heartbeat. Irregular heartbeat, known medically as heart palpitations or tachycardia, occurs when the heart beats faster than the normal. This might induce changes in heart rhythm. The average heartbeat of adult women is between 60 and 100 beats. The symptoms of the irregular heartbeat include; rapid heartbeat, increased pulse rate, pounding of chest, throat or neck, fluttering, and feeling of a heartbeat skip.
Feeling of sadness, loneliness, and discouraged is normal and ordinary during the menopausal period. Depression is a mental disorder and if severe might require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of depression can be categorized into three; physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms. Physical symptoms include fatigue, overeating, insomnia, persistent aches, loss of appetite, excessive sleeping, headaches, cramps and digestive problems. Emotional symptoms are feelings of sadness, quilt, worthlessness, restlessness, irritability and thoughts of suicide. Loss of interest, neglecting responsibilities, difficulty concentrating and difficulty in remembering are considered as behavioral symptoms.
Anxiety is a psychological state, characterized by a constant sense of worry, tension or nervousness over normal everyday events, much greater than the situation deserves. Anxiety during menopause is caused by the sudden drop in the estrogen levels circulating in the body. Anxiety is also associated with panic attacks and can manifest as physical symptoms such as shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat
Irritability during menopause is most often caused by hormonal changes, which is characterized by feelings of anger, impatience, intolerance and stress over trifle things. Irritability is defined as an excessive response to stimuli. The low levels of circulating estrogen have an adverse effect on the neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for regulating mood. The symptoms of irritability can include; impatience, intolerance, increased stress, feeling on edge, over-reacting in situations, being rude and unpleasant.
Panic disorder is a sudden and overwhelming fear and anxiety. It can be caused by physical and psychological effects caused on the menopausal woman’s bodies due to the hormonal imbalance. This can also be unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear that might strike at any time and occur without a reason.
Breast pain is characterized as a general discomfort or pain while touching or applying pressure to the breasts. Breast pain is a menopause symptom experienced by 70% of women during the stage of perimenopause. If the breast pain is accompanied by a breast lump, nipple discharge, or any other unusual symptoms, then it needs doctor consultation. The symptoms of breast pain can vary depending on the type and the individual woman. Generally speaking, symptoms include tenderness, tightness, soreness, burning, swelling, dullness, and/or aching.
Headaches during perimenopause are usually caused by fluctuating hormone levels. These headaches occur when estrogen levels plunge during the menstrual cycle, In the case of migraine headaches, the pain generally comes on slowly in one side of the head, builds, and begins to pulsate and throb. The most common symptoms of headaches are blasting pain in the head lasting up to 24 hours, sensitivity to light, sound and odors, exhausted feeling, nausea, sweaty hands and feet, difficulty in handling any daily chores.
Painful joints are a common symptom of menopause. Joint pain is an unexplained soreness in muscles and joints, which may be related to the effects of fluctuating hormone levels on the immune system. Aches, stiffness and swelling around the joints are typical symptoms of menopausal joint pain. Joints such as knees and hips tend to be most affected by this so called ‘menopausal arthritis’. Hands and fingers can also be affected.
Burning tongue is a rarely found symptom of the menopause. Burning tongue as the name suggests is a very irritating and painful burning sensation on the tongue, especially on the tip or back of the tongue, or other areas of the mouth. The common symptoms of the burning tongue are sore mouth, dry mouth, itchy mouth, sticky mouth, a numb sensation on the tip of the tongue. Low estrogen levels is said to be the primary cause of the burning tongue in menopausal women.
Electric Shock Sensation
Electric shocks are an unpleasant “electric” sensation during menopause. Electric shock is a trembling or shivering sensation that feels like electricity snapping under the skin and on the head. The effect of the low estrogen levels on the cardiovascular and nervous systems is the main cause of this electric shock sensation. There are reports saying that the electric shocks are accompanied by hot flashes.
Digestive problems during menopause ranges from excess gas production to constipation to weight gain, nausea and abdominal cramps. Digestive problems, also known as gastrointestinal problems, are considered to be a common problem for women between 45 and 55. Some of the common symptoms of digestive problems are; bloating, gas, constipation, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. This is because of the low levels of estrogen which has an effect on the stress-hormone control. Stress-hormone, cortisol rising levels impacts the blood sugar and blood pressure in the human body and thus affects the functions of the digestive system.
Gum problems are characterized as inflammation and bleeding of gums, commonly known as gingivitis or periodontitis. The low estrogen levels during menopausal period can affect bone strength, which causes weakening of teeth and jawbones. The common gum problem symptoms include swollen gum, ender gums, change in gum color, pain or burning in gums, gums bleeding and pus between the teeth and gums
Muscle tension is a menopausal symptom that is closely related to stress and anxiety. The muscle tension symptoms include tightness of muscles mainly in back shoulders, neck and abdomen, fatigue, tension headache, muscular pain and soreness. Both estrogen and progesterone play a vital role is causing muscle tension. The lower levels of estrogen cause the levels of cortisol, the stress-hormone to rise and thus increases the blood pressure and blood sugar, Progesterone has a calming effect on the body and mind. The dropping levels of progesterone causes muscle tension.
Itchy Crawly Skin
Itchy skin can be an irritating symptom of the menopause. Itchy skin, medically known as pruritus, can be a major issue, if it disrupts sleep or the day-to-day activities. Other forms of skin problem seen in menopausal women are paresthesia (a sensation of tingling, numbness and pricking of the skin), eczema, rashes, and formication (a creepy, crawling sensation). Collagen is responsible for a perfect and healthy skin. When the estrogen levels slow down, collagen production also slows down. This in turn makes the skin thinner, drier, and older.
A common menopausal symptom, tingling extremities is characterized by “pins and needles” sensation in the arms, legs, hands, fingers, feet and toes. Numbness, another feature of tingling extremities, makes fingers lose the ability to grip or feet and toes an inability to walk or lose the balance momentarily. Some women experience burning sensations from the pain that arises as nerves are pinched or joints become compressed. Estrogen fluctuations are a prime cause for tingling extremities as the nervous system’s functioning is disturbed due to hormonal imbalance
Osteoporosis or thinning bones, a progressive bone disease during menopause. This is characterized by a decrease in bone mass and density which can lead to an increased risk of fracture. The bone cells in a human body are continually replaced with new ones as we grow. With age, this ability of bone cells diminishes. The symptoms of menopause osteoporosis are easily broken bones, loss of height, stooping, loss of mobility, curved spine, bone pain, compression fractures, disfigurement periodontal disease (dental disease). Estrogen is involved in the process of calcium absorption into the bones; thus drop in the estrogen levels during menopause cause an immense reduction in the bone density.