It’s Not Just About the Hot Flashes
We all know the typical symptoms that are associated with menopause: the gradual cessation of menstruation, hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain. But most women also experience an assortment of perplexing issues that go beyond the loss of their “monthly visitor”.
You may be surprised to learn that some of the weird things happening to your body and mind are actually symptoms of menopause.
What is menopause?
Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life. Menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, triggering a cascade of changes in your body and ending your reproductive years.
In the United States, the average woman enters menopause at age 51, although some women start “the change” in their 40s while others keep on menstruating past their 50s. You are officially in menopause when you have not had a period for a year or more.
Most women also experience a period called perimenopause which can last as long as ten years and give you some fun previews of what is to come. Doctors have identified over thirty symptoms that are associated with menopause.
Here are eight of the most surprising things that may happen to your body during menopause:
- Frozen Shoulder
You wake up in the morning and realize your arm isn’t moving right. Pain radiates across your shoulder. “Did I sleep wrong?” you wonder, before you remember you don’t sleep very much anymore. Frozen shoulder is extremely prevalent with menopausal and post-menopausal women. Researchers think it may be because estrogen helps with the anti-inflammatory response on the body, so less estrogen means you are more likely to have inflammation. Or maybe it’s because you don’t sleep well anymore and scrunch your shoulder somehow, who knows?
Many women find themselves having anxiety attacks for the first time in their lives during menopause. Anxiety can take many forms, from non-stop worrying, a sense of dread, a brain that won’t shut off, or even full-blown panic attacks. Given that the symptoms of a panic attack are similar to heart attack, it can be super scary.
3. Dry Mouth/Burning Mouth
As the body produces fewer hormones, it also produces less saliva. Your mouth may become so dry your teeth stick to the inside of your lips, or your mouth might start burning for no reason. Some women also experience unexplained pain or tingling in their teeth or gums. You may also experience bad breath or a metallic taste in your mouth that is unrelated to your diet or dental hygiene.
4. Itchy Skin
If you feel like you have bug crawling on your skin or you’re developing an invisible rash, menopause is the likely culprit. While the loss of estrogen leads to skin dryness, it also causes a decrease in collagen. Meanwhile, your hot flashes and night sweats cause constriction and dilation of the blood vessels just beneath the skin, and dried sweat can block your pores. All that can lead to an itchy feeling anywhere on your body.
5. Joint Pain
Your aching knees might not be arthritis. Menopause can cause joint stiffness, pain, and inflammation which can begin to impact your mobility. This is most commonly experienced in the knees, hips, hands, fingers, elbow and shoulders. While the inclination may be to rest those areas to ease the discomfort, it is actually important to keep things moving to avoid muscle atrophy and joint degeneration. Women are also more likely to develop osteoporosis during this time, with an average loss of 20% bone density after menopause.
6. Digestive Problems
You may notice some changes in your digestion as you advance through menopause. Your taste may change and foods you used to like might no longer be palatable. It is common to develop digestive issues like heart burn, constipation, bloating, indigestion or diarrhea.
7. Electric Shocks or Tingling Extremities
Some women may have the feeling of an electric shock moving through their body, particularly right before a hot flash starts. You may also feel a tingling in your hands and feet, similar to how it feels when your extremities “fall asleep”. This uncomfortable but harmless symptom is thought to be caused by the cardiovascular and nervous systems adjusting to the changes in hormones in your body.
8. Thinning Hair or Nails
Your lustrous mane may no longer shine, and you may notice chunks of hair in the shower as your hair thins and falls out. You may also notice that your nails are becoming dry and brittle. Blame the reduced collagen in your body, along with the overall drying of your skin and tissues.
Republished from Illumination magazine on Medium. Follow me on Medium at https://medium.com/@RoseBak.