Lesser-Known Menopause Symptoms and How to Treat Them
5 minute read
The prickly heat of hot flashes, the emotional ups and downs, and the menstrual cycle that comes and goes without a discernable pattern—you’ve heard about these common symptoms of perimenopause. But what about other symptoms such as the changes in your voice and body odor, or the metallic taste in your mouth? Are these part of menopause? Are they normal?
Yes, they are.
Most women are familiar with several well-known symptoms of menopause, but there are several lesser-known, perfectly normal symptoms that can accompany this transition. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, Alloy can help: take our free assessment and a menopause-trained doctor will make sure you get the right treatment.
Well-Known Menopause Symptoms
Estrogen is an essential hormone that plays a role in a woman’s reproductive health and sexual development. We have hundreds of estrogen receptors throughout our bodies—in our ovaries, vagina, and breasts, as you may expect, but also in our brains, bones, skin, hair, lungs, heart, gut, blood vessels…the list goes on and on. When our estrogen levels start fluctuating during menopause, all systems in our body take notice and menopausal symptoms arise. Let’s start with the most well-known symptoms of menopause.
Did someone turn up the heat? Is there a hot, prickly sensation spreading across your chest and up your neck? That's a hot flash!
Estrogen helps regulate your body’s internal thermostat, helping you stay in a happy hot-cold neutral zone. Fluctuating estrogen levels during menopause cause your thermostat to become more sensitive and to kick into overdrive when it thinks your body is too warm. A hot flash is, paradoxically, your body’s exuberant attempt to cool you down.
80% of all menopausal women experience hot flashes. Hot flashes last from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. They can occur anywhere from 3 to 20 times per day and can continue for up to 12 years.
75% of women in perimenopause and menopause feel like they’re riding an emotional rollercoaster. One moment you’re crying, the next you’re lashing out because someone forgot to take out the trash, and then out of nowhere your anxiety level skyrockets. These mood swings are common and caused by hormonal fluctuations.
Poor Quality Sleep
Poor sleep quality and sleep disturbance are common in women going through perimenopause and menopause. Those nights of sleeping 7-8 hours may now seem like a dream to you. Between night sweats and other sleep disruptions, you may not be getting a good night’s rest.
You’re certainly not alone—86% of women complain of menopausal night sweats that disrupt sleep anywhere from 1 to 8 times a night.
If you are experiencing pain during intercourse or are noticing tearing and bruising of your vagina, you are not alone. 56% of women experience vaginal dryness during menopause. Estrogen, which declines during menopause, is responsible for keeping the skin of the vaginal walls smooth, lubricated, and firm. Vaginal skin thins and becomes less lubricated and elastic in response to your body’s declining estrogen levels.
Hormonal Weight Gain
You haven’t changed your diet or exercise routines, but somehow you have managed to gain weight. You may feel frustrated or blame yourself for not eating healthier or not exercising enough. What you need to know is that this is completely normal and has little to do with your habits.
It is completely natural for your body and metabolism to change over time. Women gain one pound on average for each year during menopause, and 20% of women report a weight gain of 10 or more pounds.
Menstruation Irregularity and Cessation
Your periods have become unpredictable, with the length of time in between periods being shorter or longer than it used to be. Sometimes you may even skip a period. Your flow may also have changed, varying between light to heavy.
Menstrual irregularity, and eventual cessation, are completely normal as your body begins to close out its reproductive years. Your estrogen and progesterone levels are fluctuating and your ovaries are no longer predictably ovulating.
Lesser-Known Menopause Symptoms
Menopause can cause you to experience some unexpected or lesser-known changes. From cold flashes to gum disease, even though these lesser-known menopause symptoms may surprise you, they are all normal. While these symptoms can be annoying, distressing, and uncomfortable, be assured that many of them are treatable.
Lesser-Known External Menopause Symptoms and Causes
Fragile, Brittle Nails
Estrogen is important in maintaining the hydration and collagen and keratin levels in your nails. Due to decreasing estrogen levels, postmenopausal women experience a 30% decrease in the blood flow to their nail beds compared with pre-menopausal women. This can lead to brittle, fragile nails.
Changes in Body Odor
You may have noticed that your body odor has grown stronger or has changed since you entered menopause. This can be explained in part by those hot flashes and night sweats that likely have you sweating more than you did before.
An often overlooked menopausal symptom, a shaky voice can be accompanied by throat dryness and hoarseness. Maybe you have noticed that you need to clear your throat more often. You are not alone. Research has found that 46% of post-menopausal women reported voice changes. Estrogen lubricates the throat, and when it depletes your vocal cords weaken.
Menopause Tingling Sensation
Tingling, prickly, burning sensations (paresthesias) in your hands, feet, arms, and legs can result as your fluctuating estrogen levels affect your central nervous system. These sensations usually last for a few minutes at a time and are completely harmless.
Less Full Breasts
As your estrogen levels decline, your breast tissue will begin to change. The glandular tissue responsible for milk production will begin to shrink and your breasts will become less dense. You will notice your breasts feeling less full and potentially beginning to sag.
Not uncommonly, some women complain of enlarging breasts. Even though we just told you that the glandular tissue shrinks, the fatty component of post-menopausal breasts increases. As you gain weight during menopause, because of the lack of estrogen a good portion of that weight gain is directed to your midsection. This means more fat deposition in your breasts and your belly. The good news is that less glandular tissue and more fatty tissue makes your mammograms easier to read.
Sensitive, Painful Nipples
Sore breasts and nipples are common during menopause. Estrogen’s direct effects on your breast tissue and skin all play a role. Once the hormonal fluctuations of menopause have passed, these symptoms will typically resolve.
You knew about hot flashes, but cold flashes? A cold flash is a tingling, shivery, cold feeling that can suddenly come over your body. You may shake or even turn pale. Just like their hot flash counterparts, they usually last no longer than a few minutes and are related to the effect of fluctuating hormones on the body’s “thermometer,” the hypothalamus.
Menopausal bloating is common. Your abdomen may seem to enlarge and shrink over the course of the day. These changes are due to water and gas retention, similar to the changes you may have experienced during menstruation, and can be influenced by what you eat. Bloating is not true weight gain and will likely subside once your hormone levels have stabilized.
Lesser-Known Internal Menopause Symptoms and Causes
Menopausal women commonly report the sensation of skipped, missed, irregular, or pounding heartbeats. These unusual heartbeats, or palpitations, can cause you to feel winded, uncomfortable, or anxious. Menopausal palpitations are usually harmless, but you should share these symptoms with your healthcare provider.
Dry Mouth, Reduced Saliva, and Burning Mouth Syndrome
15-33% of menopausal women complain of burning mouth syndrome (BMS). BMS is caused by the decreased production of saliva secondary to decreased levels of circulating estrogen during menopause. Decreased saliva levels can leave your mouth feeling dry and the walls of your mouth may feel like they are burning.
Metallic Taste in Mouth
As your mouth becomes dry in response to declining estrogen levels during menopause, you may develop a metallic taste in your mouth. Keeping hydrated or sucking on hard candies can help to relieve this symptom.
Changes in Taste of Food and Drinks
The cells in your mouth responsible for taste have estrogen receptors on their surfaces. Estrogen is thought to play a role in how we perceive bitter, sweet, umami, and fatty tastes.
As your estrogen levels change, so may your perception of some of your favorite foods,
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Decreased saliva production during menopause can have some undesirable effects. Saliva protects your mouth by washing away bacteria and germs, and with its decreased production you may experience tooth decay or gum disease.
Altered Spatial Awareness
Nausea associated with menopause can be brought on by fluctuating hormones or by other menopausal symptoms themselves (hot flashes and night sweats). Often changes in your diet can help to alleviate this symptom.
If you have had the sudden sensation that the world around you is spinning or wobbly or that your head is spinning and throwing you off balance, you may be experiencing benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). These sudden intense episodes of dizziness can be frightening and disruptive.
The good news is that BPPV is truly benign and usually resolves as suddenly and spontaneously as it starts. Perimenopausal and menopausal women are more vulnerable to developing BPPV than pre-menopausal women.
Research has shown that your ear cells have estrogen receptors and that the low estrogen levels that occur during menopause are associated with hearing loss. Tinnitus, the sensation of hearing a ringing sound in your ears, and general hearing impairment can both be symptoms of menopause.
What Can Treat Common and Uncommon Menopause Symptoms?
Treating both your common and uncommon menopause symptoms starts with good self-care practices. Additionally, discussing your symptoms with a menopause-trained healthcare provider and understanding which additional treatments are available to you will help you to find relief and feel your best.
Diet and Exercise
Maintaining a healthy body and weight through diet and exercise can help reduce many of the symptoms of menopause that you may be experiencing. Eating nutrient-rich foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods will be helpful during this time of transition.
Even though menopause itself makes getting a restful night’s sleep difficult, maintaining healthy sleep habits will help you combat your nighttime symptoms and help alleviate any others you are experiencing. Try to keep a routine bedtime schedule, avoid daytime napping, limit alcohol and caffeine, and keep your bedroom temperature comfortable. Also, avoiding watching TV or spending time cell phone scrolling before bedtime will help you to fall asleep more quickly.
Practicing Self Care
Paying attention to and taking the time to promote your physical and emotional well-being is crucial to your menopausal health. Making healthy choices, monitoring how you are feeling and how your body is functioning, and sharing these choices and information with your healthcare provider are all components of self-care.
Menopause Hormone Therapy
Menopause hormone therapy (MHT) supplements your body’s natural hormones through the use of estradiol pills, patches, and vaginal creams. For the vast majority of healthy menopausal women, MHT is safe and effective at treating myriad menopausal symptoms and improving quality of life.
Alloy Can Help Treat Symptoms of Menopause and Perimenopause
Menopause symptoms can be irritating, painful, annoying, and even surprising. This time of life can feel lonely, but you don’t have to deal with menopause by yourself. We can provide you with the best treatment options for both common and lesser-known menopause symptoms.
Find out how menopause hormone therapy can help you. Complete our easy intake process and an Alloy doctor will find the best treatment for your symptoms.
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