The first words you think of when you hear the word menopause are probably hot flushes, mood swings or night sweats. This is because these are the most common symptoms that are used to describe it.
There are in fact 34 lesser known symptoms that could indicate that the menopause is approaching and some of them may seem a little surprising.
The menopause and perimenopause (the lead up to it) is far more complex. Many women think they should be looking out for the well known symptoms of night sweats, memory loss, hot flushes and mood swings, but there are so many other indicators.
Symptoms like incontinence, vaginal dryness, dry skin and even toothache are some of the more subtle signs that are quite often dismissed.
Truth be known, the menopause can drastically change not only the way you feel, but also how you look and act. There are many lesser known side effects that can be equally as testing as night sweats.
So what does the menopause actually mean? Well essentially it means a loss of follicles in the ovaries and menstruation coming to an end, resulting in a significant drop of the hormone oestrogen.
As we know, hormones are very powerful things and even the slightest change in their levels can have significant and far-reaching consequences on the female body. Some are more obvious than others and can be quite damaging to your quality of life.
With this in mind we have listed some of the more obscure signs to look out for.
Most common in the perimenopause when the biggest shift in hormone levels occur. Surges in hormones can cause heart palpitations while your body rebalances itself. Symptoms include short episodes of the heart racing, fluttering, pounding or beating irregularly.
The menopause can also cause your pelvic floor muscles to weaken. This means less support for your pelvic organs like your bladder. This can leave you with frequent, sudden urges to urinate and this can often be followed by involuntary leakage of urine. Most women find this the most embarrassing, but must remember that they are not alone when experiencing this.
Dryness down below
Vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy, is extremely common during the menopause and is caused by the drop of oestrogen which stops the production of mucus in the vagina.This dryness can make sexual intercourse unpleasant and sometimes painful and can also put you at a higher risk of developing a urinary tract infection
Itchy skin is one of the lesser known symptoms of menopause and is again caused by a decrease in the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is related to the natural oils that keep our skin moisturised and the itchy sensation can occur anywhere on the body.
Dry, irritable skin
Along with the itchiness, skin can become irritable and dry when leading up to or during the menopause. This is down to falling oestrogen levels, meaning that the skin’s collagen levels become depleted very early on in the menopause. This can leave you with itchy, dry, flaky skin from head to toe.
Burning sensation on the tongue
Another rather unusual symptom of menopause is a burning sensation on the tongue. Caused by a hormone imbalance, some women may also experience a stinging or tingling feeling. This can be triggered by spicy food or a strong flavours, such as extra strong mints or toothpaste.
Suffering from aching joints for no known reason is down to lower Oestrogen levels. This is because oestrogen plays a role in managing inflammation levels throughout the body. Without it, women are far more at risk of developing joint pain and in some cases, this can lead to acute arthritis.
Just like your skin and vagina, your mouth can also become drier during the menopause. When your mouth isn’t getting lubricated, bacteria starts to grow at a faster rate. This can then lead to tooth decay and gum disease
A new allergy could be an indication of the menopause. Even if you haven’t suffered from an allergy to something before, hormonal imbalances can change all that. Some women start to suffer from eczema, hay fever or food allergies, developing a mid-life allergic reaction isn’t uncommon.
Change in your nails
Nails can become dry and brittle, this is also linked to the drop in oestrogen during the menopause. It is recommended that you drink plenty of water and take oestrogen replacements to counterbalance the brittleness.
Apart from just wanting a bit of your own personal space, the menopause can leave you feeling very isolated and alone. As physical symptoms combine and intensify, they can really knock your confidence and create feelings of anxiety, depression and loss of hope about the future. This can cause you to start withdrawing emotionally.
Unpleasant body odour
Although it’s general knowledge that hot flushes and night sweats can cause you to perspire more during the menopause, did you know the smell of your sweat can also change?
Some women say they experience a bad case of “BO” which is difficult to shift.
If you find yourself suffering with any of the symptoms above, there are actions you can take to feel better. Try changing your diet, taking vitamins and supplements, reduce your alcohol consumption, do the right kind of exercises (not forgetting pelvic floor training) or look into medical treatments and alternative health therapies like acupuncture.
Please don’t suffer in silence. If you have any worries about how the menopause may be impacting your life, health and wellbeing, consult your GP or a trained health professional as soon as possible.