Overall, medical professionals agree that there are at least 37 symptoms of menopause, ranging from the mild and easy-to-overlook, to the more dramatic and potentially disruptive to your lifestyle. While the average age of onset for menopause is between 50 and 52, bear in mind that most women start experiencing the symptoms several years beforehand. Here is brief information about the more common symptoms, followed by a list of the remaining ones. When you read this, don’t be worried. Every one is merely a sign that your body is functioning like a normal woman’s body should!
1. Hot or cold flushes:
Many women report having hot of cold flushes, as well as feelings of associated clamminess or sweatiness. Indeed the hot flush has become one of the more ‘stereotypical’ symptoms of menopause. Both hot and cold flushes reflect a change in your body’s internal thermostat, a factor that is regulated by the hypothalamus. During menopause, less estrogen is produced by the ovaries. The hypothalamus detects this drop in estrogen levels, and responds by altering your body’s temperature hence causing these otherwise unexplained feelings of hotness or coldness.
2. Periods of rapid or irregular heart rate:
This is one of the lesser-known and more frightening symptoms of menopause. In fact, some women say they feel as if they are having heart failure, palpitations, or a panic attack. Despite research into this matter, the medical community has no clear answer as to why heart arrhythmia occurs in some menopausal women. It often begins during the lead-up to menopause proper (during the “peri-menopause” phase) and naturally it causes concern. It is important to report this symptom to your physician to eliminate other, potentially more serious causes.
3. Moodiness, ill temper and feelings of irritability:
See-sawing emotions can make menopausal women feel as if they are on a rollercoaster they can’t control. Like pre-menstrual-syndrome, feelings of irritability or moodiness during menopause are very common and easily explained. They are caused by natural hormonal fluctuations. Most women learn to cope with mood swings by doing regular exercise, or performing relaxation techniques such as meditation, and yoga.
4. Becoming easily upset and teary:
Because their hormones are changing so dramatically, menopausal women can also find they become teary and emotional at the drop of a hat, and sometimes for no reason at all. Again, dealing with unpredictable mood swings isn’t easy but by learning coping mechanisms, such as breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, you can start to lessen the impact.
5. Disrupted or disordered sleeping patterns:
For various reasons, menopausal women can often develop calcium deficiencies. Because calcium acts as a sedative on the human body, this deficiency can lead to restlessness, an inability to fall to sleep, as well as poor sleeping patterns throughout the night. Naturally, this can be extremely frustrating and tiring for women. Not surprising, a lack of quality sleep can also compound other problems such as feeling emotional or experiencing moodiness. The answer for many women is a calcium supplement, as well as engaging in gentle relaxation exercises to help them better sleep.
6. Unusual or irregular menstrual cycles, including lighter or heavier bleeding:
Since menopause is the cessation of menstruation, it seems self-evident that women would experience changes to their menstrual cycle, finally culminating in a failure to menstruate at all. What women might not know is that disturbances to their periods can occur well before menopause begins. Indeed some women report unusually long or short periods, different bleeding patterns, as well as skipped periods well before menopause takes place.
7. Decrease or loss of libido:
With menopause comes a decrease in hormonal levels, including a drop in estrogen levels. This can cause a reduction in libido or lowered interest in sex. That said, some research points out that although many menopausal women report having a lower libido, their level of sexual activity nevertheless remains steady, suggesting the relationship between normal menopausal hormonal changes and libido is a complex one.
8. Vaginal dryness:
As mentioned earlier, menopause involves a reduction in estrogen. Estrogen is the so-called “female” hormone, which amongst other things, is responsible for maintaining healthy, supple vaginal tissue and lubrication. When estrogen drops, as it does during menopause, this leads to vaginal dryness. An unfortunate consequence can be painful sexual intercourse.
9. Gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, indigestion, gas and bloating:
Many women aren’t aware that balanced hormones help keep their gastrointestinal tract functioning normally. Indeed, it’s not until there is an imbalance (such as there is during menopause) that they come to realize how important hormones are to digestion. For instance, estrogen is a stimulant for the gastrointestinal tract, and therefore the drop in estrogen levels can cause any number of symptoms, such as gas, constipation, diarrhea and indigestion. Likewise changes to progesterone levels during menopause can cause disruptions to your usual bowel patterns. Menopause also places pressure on your liver, leaving it less energy to do its usual cleansing duties.
Other symptoms of menopause include:
11. Morbid thoughts and feelings of dread and apprehension
12. Mental vagueness and inability to concentrate
13. Memory loss
14. Incontinence and “frequency” of urination
15. Unusual sensation on one’s skin, such as phantom itches, and crawling skin
16. Sore joints
17. Muscle tension and soreness
18. Tender breasts and hypersensitive nipples
19. Headaches and migraines
21. Feeling bloated
23. Changes to, or worsening of, existing health problems
24. Exacerbation of allergies
25. Weight gain and metabolic imbalances
26. Thinning or loss of hair on the head
27. Increase in facial hair
28. Giddiness, loss of balance and light-headedness
29. Strange or unpleasant body odors
30. Increased perspiration
31. Poor circulation, tingling sensation in limbs and extremities
32. Sensitive and/or bleeding gums
34. “Burning Mouth Syndrome” or the sensation of one’s tongue, or mouth burning as well as strange taste in the mouth
36. Tinnitus (ie. Ringing or strange noises in the ears)
Not all women will experience everything on this list or may go through a combination of several. The secret to getting through menopause is to remember that each symptom is normal and will eventually pass.