All women experience menopause differently; you may have all or some of these issues to varying degrees.
Menopause can arrive with a host of symptoms. Most women experience at least some of these menopausal symptoms — typically when they are in their late forties or in their fifties, although it can occur earlier or later.
1. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), 75
Hot flashes are the sudden feeling of intense warmth, usually around the face and upper body. Your face and chest may also turn red, and you can perspire heavily. Some women also experience a rapid heartbeat. When it ends, you might feel chilled. Night sweats are similar; you will wake up drenched in sweat, to the point that you might have to change clothes and bedding.
Experts aren’t entirely clear on the cause, but one theory is that changes to the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that regulates body temperature) cause it to misread body temperature and begin the process of cooling down by dilating blood vessels close to the skin surface in order to increase blood flow. This
2. Slowed Metabolism and Weight Gain
During menopause, many women experience the dreaded “menopot” or “menopause spread,” gaining weight usually in the abdomen. NAMS reports that menopausal women gain on average 1.5 pounds per year.
Two-thirds of women ages 40 to 59 and around three-quarters of women older than 60 are overweight. Excess weight gain can up the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertensionn, respiratory problems, and uterine and breast cancers, and can intensify hot flashes.
During menopause, estrogen levels drop, which causes fat storage to shift from hips and thighs to the belly. Research from Mayo Clinic published in March 2013 in the journal Diabetes found that when estrogen drop, proteins cause the fat cells to store more fat and slow down your metabolism’s fat-burning capability. Also, as we age, we tend to naturally exercise less and eat more.
3. Depression, Anxiety, and Mood Swings
Studies have shown that mood changes occur in up to 23 percent of peri- and postmenopausal women.
- Estrogen fluctuation can bring on changes to your brain and nervous system that can affect mood. It can also interfere with slee — lack of sleep can cause mood disturbances.
- This stage of life is a time of great change for women — they are winding down their childbearing and child-rearing years, facing midlife, a new body, and a new identity. Some may mourn what can now never be; others are anxious about the new stage to come.
- Stigmas against menopause and mental illness prevent many from getting help.
4. Insomnia and Sleep Disruptions
Menopause can wreak havoc on your ability to get some solid z’s — either you can’t fall asleep or you are waking up several times during the night.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, menopause keeps you awake for a variety of reasons.
- Levels of estrogen and progesterone, sleep-promoting hormones, are dropping.
- Night sweats — the sudden flash of heat and soaking sweat wakes you up. It may take a while to get back to sleep, especially if you have to change clothes and strip the bed.
- Depression and anxiet (see above)
5. Hair Loss and Brittle Nails
Many women experience thinning hair during menopause; some encounter an extreme form known as female pattern hair loss. Your nails may become ridged and brittle.
Blame those estrogen and progesterone drops again. Those are the hormones responsible for maintaining healthy hair. It’s also a double-whammy: When they decrease, the male hormone, androgen, has more of an effect. To add insult to injury, the latter may cause hair to start growing in unwanted places, like your chin and upper lip.
Hair and nails are made up largely of keratin, which is affected by decreased blood flow. A study has shown that blood flow to nail beds was reduced by 30
6. Sexual Dysfunction, Desire Issues
Many women find that with menopause comes some unpleasant changes in their vaginas, which can make sexual activity mildly difficult to extremely painful. Women report a feeling of vaginal tightness during penetration, and are at higher risk for tearing and bleeding during intercourse. In fact, between 17 and 45
In tandem with vaginal pain, some women may feel a decline in their libido known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder. One study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that 26.7
The hormone drop causes vaginal walls to become thin, dry, fragile, and less flexible, a situation known as vulvovaginal atrophy. If the vagina also becomes inflamed (vagina become red and produces discharge), it is atrophic vaginitis. Along with the estrogen decrease, libido can be squashed by stress, depression, poor body image, and frustration over how long it takes to reach
7. Bone Loss and Osteoporosis Risk
You can build more bone than you lose up until around age 30. After age 35,
One of estrogen’s jobs is to protect bone health. When it depletes, so goes that benefit, leaving bones vulnerable to deterioration.
8. Dry Skin and Other Skin Problems
If you are noticing that your skin is getting dry, slack, easily irritated, and thin, leading to the development of jowls and easy bruising, you are not imagining it. You may also develop acne, rashes and that wounds heal much more slowly.
Say it with me: Estrogen depletion. It causes
9. Dry Eyes and Dry Mouth
Menopausal women often suffer from dry, inflamed, irritated eyes, and their mouths can also become dry and tacky. Many find they can’t even wear contact lenses regularly anymore due to the lack of lubrication on the tissue that covers the eyeball. Mouth dryness can be so severe that it can affect oral health. Lack of saliva can lead to increase in cavities, periodontal disease, gingivitis, and more.
Estrogen gets a break on dry eyes. Researchers who published a study in the journal Review of Opthalmology found that decreasing androgens get the blame for dry eyes. Since women have less of the hormone
10. Memory Issues and Problems With Concentration
Your cognitive function may go a little screwy. Words are harder to retrieve, you forget why you walked into a room and darned if you know where your keys ended up. A Baylor University study confirmed that trouble with working memory and complex attention and vigilance is completely normal, and it isn’t permanent.
Diminished estrogen production is once again the cause, but that’s not the whole story. Disrupted sleep, depression, and hot flashes can also play a role, according to a paper published in August 2014 in the journalIntegrative Medicine Insights.