The 34 Symptoms of Menopause + 5 Treatments
Menopause is a major stage in a woman’s life often marked by profound physical and emotional changes. Every woman will experience menopause differently and some symptoms naturally receive more attention than others.
There are as many as 34 common symptoms of menopause and while that number may seem oddly-specific, menopause affects every part of your body which invites a broad range of changes. A woman going through menopause might experience some or all of these symptoms and the goal of this post is to explore them all and breakdown some possible remedies for your health and well being.
What is menopause?
Menopause refers to a period in a woman’s life when she stops having a menstrual period or bleeding for 12 months in a row. Many people think that a woman stops having her period overnight when in reality the underlying process itself occurs over a long period of time.
Perimenopause vs menopause vs postmenopause
The period leading up to menopause is known as “perimenopause.” Most women begin perimenopause in their 40s and some may experience so few symptoms that they do not realize they have entered perimenopause (you can also still get pregnant during this time). However, for others, symptoms can be significant and life-altering.
Menopause is when you have fully stopped having periods for 12 months in a row and you can no longer get pregnant. You are considered menopausal when you’ve gone a full year without a period. Once you’ve experienced menopause, you are in the postmenopause phase, or the period in a woman’s life after menopause has occurred and this phase lasts the rest of your life.
What is the average age for menopause?
The average age that menopause occurs for most women is 51. Many women will experience symptoms earlier than that and approximately 5% of women will go through early menopause before the age of 45. Women with a condition known as premature ovarian insufficiency will experience menopause before the age of 40, but this disorder only affects 1% of the population.
How long does menopause last?
Menopause itself only refers to a moment in time marked by 12 months of no periods. Perimenopause symptoms can start several years before you’ve reached menopause and may carry on into postmenopause as well. How long symptoms last will vary between women.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, hormonal changes can be seen 8 to 10 years ahead of menopause and even before the onset of perimenopause. Perimenopause can last anywhere from a few months to several years as your body produces less and less estrogen.
What does it feel like to go through menopause?
Every woman’s menopause experience is different and most will experience a range of symptoms. Some symptoms are more common than others and can affect both your physical and mental health. Every woman will experience their symptoms in different ways and you may experience some, all, or none.
This video by Dr. Jen Gunter explains what’s really happening to your body during this time and what it might feel like to go through this change.
What are the 34 symptoms of menopause?
Irregular periods are often a woman’s first sign that she has entered perimenopause.
A normal period lasts three to seven days and occurs every 21 to 35 days. Periods are considered irregular if they occur more or less frequently than they are supposed to.
Your period might be irregular if you:
- Cycle length varies for more than 7 days each time (menorrhagia)
- Do not have a menstrual period for at least three cycles (amenorrhea)
- Have menstrual periods that are more than 35 days apart (oligomenorrhea)
Irregular periods may be due to perimenopause but can also signify other health conditions and it is important to see a doctor to rule out anything serious.
Hot flashes plague 75 percent of perimenopausal women and last for an average of five years. During a hot flash, you may feel warm, appear flushed, perspire, and/or experience anxiety and rapid heart rate.
Doctors are unsure why women experience these temperature changes during perimenopause, but they are probably related to changing levels in hormones.
Like hot flashes, night sweats are common in the time period around menopause, leading many menopausal women to wake up in a tangle of soaked sheets. Night sweats are also most likely due to hormonal changes.
Rarely, night sweats represent an underlying risk of heart disease or breast cancer. Your doctor can let you know if your night sweats are something to worry about, or simply due to the natural changes of menopause.
Loss of Libido
Due to decreasing levels of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, a menopausal woman’s sexual function may be diminished.
About 80 percent of menopausal women report experiencing a decrease in sexual desire. Unfortunately, this can have a negative impact on women’s intimate relationships.
Thankfully, certain lifestyle changes, such as using lubrication and starting an exercise program, can boost libido to counteract the effects of menopause.
According to a survey by Menopause Matters, half of all women between the ages of 51 and 60 experience vaginal dryness. Low levels of estrogen during menopause decrease the blood supply to the vagina, which leads to vaginal dryness and atrophy.
Vaginal dryness can make sexual activities painful. In turn, this can make it more difficult to become aroused and even lower libido by creating a neural pathway that links sex to pain.
Using high-quality lubricant and/or vaginal moisturizers can alleviate vaginal dryness to make sex less painful and more pleasurable.
78 percent of women going through menopause experience mood swings. These drastic changes in mood occur because fluctuating levels of estrogen in the body also affect our levels of other neurohormones responsible for regulating mood.
Practicing healthy habits like exercise and good sleep hygiene can help stabilize your mood during menopause.
It’s not uncommon for women to experience increased anxiety during perimenopause and menopause. These mental changes might affect as many as one in three women.
It’s important to note that the increases in anxiety during menopause are typically mild. If you are having severe anxiety, see your doctor.
Therapy and medication, or a combination of the two, can help alleviate anxiety due to menopause or another cause altogether.
In addition to increased anxiety, some women also experience panic attacks during peri- and post-menopause.
Again, panic attacks due to menopause are often mild. If you are experiencing severe or frequent panic attacks, you should visit your doctor to rule out a full-blown panic disorder.
As with anxiety, therapy and medication can both play a role in alleviating panic attacks during menopause.
Have you ever forgotten where you put your keys even though you just had them — or walked into a room only to forget why you went there in the first place?
During menopause, you may find these feelings increasing due to fluctuating levels of estrogen in the body. Estrogen helps support our cognitive functioning, meaning that hormonal changes before and after menopause can make you feel “fuzzy” or forgetful.
In addition to impacting memory, menopause can also reduce your attention span and attention to detail.
Estrogen prompts the brain to burn glucose as energy. Declining levels of estrogen during menopause mean the brain no longer works as hard. In turn, you may find it more difficult to focus on your tasks.
During the period before and after menopause, you may find that you have a “shorter fuse” than usual. You might snap at your loved ones or lose your patience sooner than you once did.
Irritability during menopause often occurs due to, you guessed it, hormonal changes — but can also result from sleep problems during this time. Practicing good sleep hygiene can improve the length and quality of your sleep to help promote a healthy, stable mood.
Compared with women under age 45, post-menopausal women are four times as likely to suffer from depression. When a woman is predisposed to depression, these feelings of sadness can become a full-blown depressive episode.
If you are experiencing severe or persistent symptoms of depression — such as low mood, fatigue, sleep disruptions, or suicidal ideation — you should always talk to your doctor.
As you enter menopause, you may find that your hair becomes thinner, breaks more easily, or falls out more often than it used to.
The sex hormones estrogen and progesterone promote hair growth. Reduced levels of these hormones before and after menopause may lead to hair loss or thinning.
Unfortunately, hair loss during menopause is difficult to counteract. While it can impact a woman’s confidence, doctors do not consider hair loss during menopause worrisome.
During the period before and after menopause, you might feel more tired than usual. A persistent lack of energy and/or feelings of excessive tiredness is known as fatigue.
Fatigue might result from changing hormone levels, but can also be related to sleep disruptions during menopause. Menopause itself can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep — and symptoms like night sweats certainly don’t help!
According to the National Sleep Foundation, women report the most sleep problems from peri- to post-menopause. As many as 61 percent of menopausal women report symptoms of insomnia, the inability to fall or stay asleep.
Menopause itself may keep you up at night, but so can unpleasant symptoms of menopause like anxiety and hot flashes. Treating these symptoms can help you get a better night’s sleep, as can practicing good sleep hygiene.
Unexplained dizziness and/or vertigo frequently occur in women before and after menopause. These symptoms may occur due to the drop in estrogen levels, or due to symptoms like hot flashes and anxiety.
It’s important to note that dizziness can also signify the presence of other medical conditions. Visit your doctor to rule out dangerous health problems, such as hypertension, that can also cause dizzy spells.
Many women experience increased bloating during perimenopause.
As hormone levels fluctuate during perimenopause, higher levels of estrogen than usual can lead the body to retain water. This can lead to bloating. Thankfully, while it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, bloating is usually not cause for worry.
It’s normal for our bodies to change as we age. You might gain weight during perimenopause or menopause, as decreased levels of estrogen can slow your metabolism.
Women may especially notice increased belly fat during this time. Since excess belly fat can raise your risk of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, it’s important to pay attention to nutrition and exercise from peri- to post-menopause.
Aging, childbirth, and decreased muscle mass can all weaken the pelvic floor muscles. As a result, menopausal women may experience stress incontinence: urine leakage that occurs when you laugh, sneeze, cough, or lift.
Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor may help combat stress incontinence during menopause. If your stress incontinence is severe or interferes with your quality of life, you may also consider pelvic floor physical therapy.
You may notice that your nails become more brittle or break more easily before and after menopause.
The body produces less keratin, collagen, and elastin — the three main substances that make up our nails — as our estrogen levels decrease. Lower levels of keratin, collagen, and elastin can result in dryness all over the body, but especially in the fingernails.
Some women experience changes in their heartbeat, especially during perimenopause. These changes can include arrhythmias, increased heart rate or palpitations.
For most women, these changes are non-threatening. However, they can also be caused by life-threatening cardiac conditions, so it’s important to visit your doctor if you experience noticeable changes in your heartbeat during menopause.
Sex hormones and the body’s immune system are closely linked. As a result, you might develop allergies to substances you never had a problem with before during menopause.
Keeping a food diary of the things you eat and the symptoms you experience can help you identify which foods might be triggering unpleasant reactions.
“What’s that smell?” is never a question you want to be asked, but changes in body odor during menopause should not be a cause for concern or embarrassment.
Some menopausal women find that they sweat more than usual or experience changes in their body odor. This occurs as a result of hormonal changes and is perfectly natural.
Headaches and Migraines
Aches and pains are common in the period surrounding menopause — especially headaches and migraines. Drops in estrogen before a woman’s menstrual period can trigger menstrual headaches or migraines, and fluctuating levels of estrogen during perimenopause can do the same.
If you suffered from headaches or migraines during your period, you might be more likely to experience them during perimenopause, too. Luckily, these pains tend to improve after menopause, when estrogen levels become more stable.
Breast tenderness is another symptom many women deal with as a result of fluctuating estrogen levels throughout the menstrual cycle — or during menopause. Women may also find that their breasts appear less full after menopause when estrogen levels decrease.
Whether your breasts feel sore or you go down a bra size, breast changes surrounding menopause are not usually a cause for concern. However, if you are worried about breast pain or notice accompanying changes in your breast tissue, it never hurts to have it checked out by a doctor.
Joint pain is common as we age. However, studies show that some women experience a special type of joint pain known as “menopausal arthritis.” This type of arthritis affects women at the onset of menopause and causes swelling, primarily in the fingers and wrists.
Estrogen plays an important role in the formation of saliva. As a result, some women develop Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) in response to decreased estrogen levels after menopause.
BMS can cause the sensation of a burning tongue or a metallic taste in your mouth. BMS can be caused by other conditions besides menopause, so you should visit your doctor if you experience symptoms.
Some women experience sudden, unpredictable shock sensations in the period surrounding menopause, especially at the onset of a hot flash.
Because estrogen plays an important role in the nervous system, it is thought that these electric shocks result from the misfiring of neurons in response to decreased levels of estrogen in the body.
Dental problems affect an estimated 10 to 40 percent of women before and after menopause. Perimenopausal women are at higher risk of bone loss due to decreased levels of estrogen in the body. As a result, they may also experience receding gums and tooth decay.
Speaking of bone loss, women are also at higher risk of osteoporosis, especially after menopause. Some women experience a drastic 20 percent loss of bone density after menopause in response to lower levels of estrogen in the body.
Osteoporosis can be prevented by practicing weight-bearing exercises, eating a balanced diet, and, if okayed by your doctor, taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.
The digestive system is not immune to the effects of decreased estrogen during menopause. In response to lower levels of estrogen, the body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol.
Increased cortisol levels can cause digestive upset, including bloating, indigestion, abdominal pain, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. Thankfully, good nutrition can support healthy digestion during menopause, and help ward off the worst of these symptoms.
Remember how we talked about increased dryness in the body due to lower levels of keratin, collagen, and elastin during menopause? In addition to affecting your fingernails, this process can also affect your skin.
Menopausal changes affecting collagen levels make your skin thinner and dryer. Unfortunately, this can also cause a persistent and uncomfortable sensation of itching all over your body.
Unexplained tingling in the arms, legs, feet, and hands — known as paresthesia — can sometimes affect perimenopausal women. This sensation can be scary and uncomfortable but usually disappears after menopause.
While it is not usually a cause for concern, you should see a doctor if you experience paresthesia at any point. It can also be a symptom of more serious conditions affecting the nervous system.
Some menopausal women may feel like their muscles are tight or strained. Muscle tension surrounding menopause may be mild — or it may persist to the point of chronic pain. While muscle tension may relate to lower levels of estrogen, since estrogen regulates muscle cell energy, it is also closely linked to stress and anxiety.
If your symptoms are severe or affecting your quality of life, you may need treatment to reduce or manage them. If your symptoms don’t require serious medical treatment, there are many things you can do to help reduce them or get rid of them altogether.
Vitamins and supplements for mood changes
It can be hard to separate the facts from the hype, but many supplements and vitamins have proven benefits for psychological conditions. Vitamins like B-6 help make serotonin, which can fluctuate during menopause, contributing to mood changes. There are even multivitamins specifically aimed at women experiencing this transition in life that aim to address many common symptoms together and support emotional well-being.
Clothing and temperature changes for sweats and hot flashes
Sudden changes in temperature ranging from feeling warm or hot suddenly to sweating profusely at night can vary from woman to woman. But as anyone who struggles with temperature regulation knows, dressing in layers is your first line of defense against the constant ups and downs. Layers give you some control but at night, dressing in cotton or using cotton bed linens can also help you find relief.
Lubricants for sexual changes
Adding lubrication or moisturizers during sex can help with any discomfort you may be experiencing due to menopause. If it’s more than the occasional dryness it may be time to see your doctor who can advise you on next steps. Sometimes additional medications are needed for vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, or moisturization.
Lifestyle changes for trouble sleeping
Reducing your caffeine intake, maintaining your weight through a balanced diet, and daily exercise are all helpful habits to promote a better night’s sleep. Lightweight pajamas and keeping your room at a cooler temperature can also be useful, especially if you experience night sweats.
Pelvic exercises for urinary and bowel issues
Pelvic exercises can run the gamut from making sure you do your kegels every day, to biofeedback therapy that helps you target your pelvic floor muscles. Strengthening the muscles in this area can help ease physiological changes that happen to this area during menopause.
Menopause symptoms FAQs
What are the worst menopause symptoms?
It is impossible to say what the worst menopause symptom will be for any one person as every woman will experience this transition differently. Research does show that lack of sleep is one of the biggest problems reported among women during this time.
What are the most unusual menopause symptoms?
Some of the most unusual menopause symptoms include the feeling of insects crawling on your skin (formication), a metallic or burning taste in your mouth, body odour, electric zaps, tinnitus, gum disease, and even cold flushes. Women have also reported changes in their spatial awareness and executive functions like concentration and focus.
How many symptoms can you have due to menopause?
While there are over 30 common symptoms of the menopausal transition, there is no set number of symptoms one can have due to menopause. The symptoms of menopause may be treated individually or holistically and many treatments and remedies help more than one symptom.