Understanding and Managing Menopause Symptoms
Are menopause symptoms taking over your life? You’re not alone. On any given day, there are nearly 45 million women transitioning through menopause. Some experience no more than irregular periods. For many women, though, menopause can affect our sleep, memory, and even our relationships.
As you enter the early stages of menopause, some symptoms will be noticeable. Maybe it’s that horrible migraine that strikes at the worst possible time. Or you might wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. Other menopause symptoms aren’t quite as obvious, but may still impact your life and even require medical attention. At some point during their journey, most women experience one or more of the following:
• Hot flashes and night sweats. Hot flashes are one of the more common menopause symptoms and can be triggered by caffeine, spicy foods, and even stress. Night sweats aren’t much more pleasant. For some women, though, both hot flashes and night sweats can be managed by making diet or lifestyle changes.
• Sleep disorders. More than one-third of women suffer through some form of sleep discomfort during menopause. And, unfortunately, lack of sleep can fuel other menopause symptoms, including anxiety and poor concentration.
• Mood swings and emotions. Ever feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster? Mood swings are common and usually caused by your wildly fluctuating hormone levels. While the emotional changes can be manageable, you may want to visit your doctor to discuss more extreme conditions, such as bipolar disorder or depression.
• Memory loss. Sure, we all tend to be a little more forgetful as we get older, but memory lapses are among the more normal symptoms of menopause.
• Menopause and sex. It might be easy to blame your lack of desire on that annoying headache, but as many as 20-40% of women really do notice a loss of libido during menopause. Changes to your diet and regular exercise can not only enhance your sex drive, but may also help your stress and anxiety levels, as well.
• Spotting or bleeding during menopause. While bleeding and spotting can be expected, it’s still important to track your menstrual cycle and be aware of any potential changes.
• Vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness is one of the more confusing—and even embarrassing—menopause symptoms. Fortunately, it’s also manageable. Many women find relief through a combination of lifestyle changes, over-the-counter products, or even herbal supplements.
• Joint pain. Aching joints and muscles can have the biggest impact on postmenopausal women and are usually caused by fluctuating hormone levels. You can ease some of the pain and discomfort with exercise, proper nutrition, and plenty of rest.
• Dry Skin & Eyes. Hormones and your environment can contribute to flaky skin, as well as to dry eyes. And though eye drops can help, it’s never a bad idea to have your vision checked by a licensed optometrist.
• Weight gain. Many women commonly complain about the extra pounds they add during menopause. Feel free to blame it on changing hormones and a slowdown in your metabolism. But it’s also important to watch your diet and make time for exercise.
• Menopause headache and migraines. Declining estrogen levels can often trigger headaches, especially during the early stages of menopause. Menstrual migraines can be far more intense. While it may be difficult to find immediate relief, many women turn to over-the-counter options, as well as preventive solutions, such as yoga or walking.
• Anxiety and Stress. Anxiety is among the more common menopause symptoms and can range from nervousness and worry to a more serious panic disorder. Also caused by fluctuating estrogen levels, treatment options can include lifestyle changes, natural remedies, and counseling.
• High blood pressure. Women in menopause are sometimes at an increased risk for high blood pressure. Though it can be caused by a variety of factors, you should consult your doctor or gynecologist and get your blood pressure checked regularly.
• Fatigue. While bouts of fatigue can strike anybody at anytime, women in menopause are even more susceptible to feelings of weakness, drowsiness, and lower energy levels. Watch your diet and lifestyle, but discuss more extreme or chronic conditions with your doctor.
• Osteoporosis. Menopause can have a serious impact on your bone structure and density. In fact, nearly 33% of all women will experience bone fractures as a direct or indirect result of osteoporosis. And though several factors—including estrogen levels, medications, and your genetic history—can cause osteoporosis, prevention plays an important role as you transition through menopause.
• Hair loss. Maybe you’ve noticed the clumps of hair in the bathroom sink or your hairline thinning a bit in front. Hair loss, unfortunately, is one of the more common and noticeable symptoms of menopause, usually caused by declining levels of estrogen.
• Itchy skin. When collagen production slows during menopause, you might not only start looking a little older, you may also notice that your skin itches more than usual. Or even more irritating, you may feel a sense of tingling in different parts of your body.
Whatever menopause symptoms you encounter, it’s important not to let them run your life. Instead, follow three key steps in managing your transition. First, know the facts and be able to recognize menopause symptoms as they appear. Understand both your body and treatment options available. And finally, don’t go it alone. Connect with other women and consult your doctor as it makes sense.