Menopause symptoms strike many women over 40, as they transition into the end of their fertile years. While not every woman experiences noticeable signs of menopause, roughly 70 percent of women find menopause symptoms interrupt their lives, health and relationships. Symptoms of menopause can range from the physical – such as hot flashes and unexplained weight gain – to psychological ones such as depression, anxiety, mood and swings.
Why Do Menopause Symptoms Occur?
As the female body ages, the brain begins to lose its sensitivity to hormonal transmissions sent between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and ovaries. Because hormonal requests are not properly communicated, hormone production begins to become erratic – and eventually decline. As hormone levels descend, natural functions that depend on proper hormone reserves begin to break down.
Women will often begin to notice the symptoms of menopause as their bodies become hormonally imbalanced. Skin can become less elastic and moisturized, weight gain can occur as the body seeks to encourage estrogen reserves in fat cells, and mood swings or depression can onset as the brain does not receive the hormones it needs to produce neurological chemicals such as serotonin. Virtually every system in the body can be affected by hormonal imbalance – and until underlying imbalances are resolved, menopause symptoms can persist for years.
Physical Symptoms of Menopause
Every woman’s experience with the signs of menopause is unique, in duration, number and intensity of symptoms. Many women are surprised to learn there are 35 distinct symptoms of menopause, including skin problems, weight gain and mood swings that women may incorrectly attribute to other causes. Perhaps the most notorious physical menopause symptom is the “hot flash” – a sudden spike body temperature that can leave women perspiring, dizzy, sleepless and even panicked.
As the body struggles with the lack of hormonal balance that often accompanies menopause, virtually every system in the body can become negatively affected. Women may notice changes in appearance, from thinning hair to skin conditions like eczema, itching, loss of elasticity, reddening, and proneness to wrinkling. Some women also find their urinary and digestive systems affected, with symptoms such as constipation, urinary incontinence, abdominal pain, and bloating. Fatigue and exhaustion have also become hallmarks of menopause, as the body’s energy levels become disrupted by hormonal deficiencies.
Some physical symptoms of menopause, though rare, can be especially distressing for women. Women can feel disoriented as they encounter menopause symptoms such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears), tingling extremities, “electric shock” sensations throughout the body, and creeping sensations across their skin. Women can also find themselves struggling against new and undesired facial hair, thickening skin on the hands and feet, and muscular pains. Many women also feel menopause’s impact on their love lives, as they suddenly experience uncomfortable intercourse, vaginal atrophy, dryness, and itching.
Psychological Symptoms of Menopause
In addition to the disruptive physical symptoms of menopause, many women also suffer from the emotional and psychological toll hormone imbalance can create during menopause. Hormones help regulate mood, and play a part in the production of chemical messengers in the brain (such as serotonin). When hormonal production declines, women can find themselves sharply and rapidly swinging between alternate moods, experiencing prolonged depression, and fraught with anxiety and paranoia. Many women also experience a loss of libido, as female hormones – and even hormones like testosterone – become deficient, lowering sexual appetite.
Most of the time, these fluctuations have to do with deficiencies in the body’s hormones, exacerbated by other menopause symptoms such as insomnia, irregular periods, and fatigue. Some women even experience cognitive issues due to menopause, such as “brain fog,” difficulty concentrating on tasks, and memory lapses.
The Pain in Menopause
There are 34 different symptoms of menopause. Some physical. Some physiological. Some psychological. All frustrating and debilitating. To better understand how these symptoms affect you, here is a categorical breakdown:
- Vascular Instability – this is enemy #1 on most women’s lists. The hormonal imbalances caused by menopause create vascular instability, meaning your body struggles to regulate its own internal temperature. The most common symptoms associated with vascular instability are hot flashes and night sweats.
- Urogenital Atrophy – most commonly associated with vaginal dryness, urogenital atrophy can lead to bleeding, itchiness and incontinence.
- Skeletal Pain – many women suffering from menopause claim to have back or joint problems, and it’s widely recognized that menopause can lead to osteoporosis.
- Soft Tissue Issues – dry, itchy skin is no fun. And unfortunately, it’s a symptom of menopause.
- Psychological Damage – arguably the worst side effect of menopause is the depression, mental fatigue, memory loss, insomnia, etc. that can debilitate one’s personal and professional life.
- Sexual Stagnation – In addition to vaginal dryness, menopause has been known to cause loss of libido and issues reaching orgasm.
It’s worth reiterating that while there are 34 recognized symptoms of menopause, not every woman reacts to aging the same way. Some may experience more symptoms than others and some more severely than others. It usually comes down to your personal habits and heritage. Below is the full list of menopausal symptoms.