12 Weird, Annoying, and Scary Things That Can Happen When You Go Through Menopause—and What to Do About Them
When it comes to menopause, you probably know what to expect for the most part: Hot flashes, weight gain or loss, fatigue, and mood swings. While there are many well-known symptoms, there are also some that may surprise you.
“Menopause is a normal hormonal cycle for women that typically occurs around the age of 51, but symptoms can begin up to 10 years earlier,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “The most common symptoms include irregular periods, hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, depression, anxiety, mood swings, feeling apprehensive, weight gain or loss, fatigue, poor concentration, memory loss, vaginal dryness and heart palpitations.”
For all the women entering this next chapter of life, here are 12 things that can happen when you go through menopause.
12 menopause symptoms
Itchy eyes? Runny nose and sneezing nonstop? Yep, you can blame it on menopause.
“Many women experience a worsening of their allergies during menopause,” Dr. Ross explains. “Some women even develop a new onset of allergies as a result of increasing production of histamines that cause allergic reactions.”
Did you the amount of estrogen in your body is directly linked to joint pain? Unfortunately, as estrogen goes down, joint pain can go up.
“Estrogen is a great body hydrator and also fights inflammation throughout the body, especially in the joints. When a woman goes into menopause and loses estrogen production, the joints can become less lubricated and more inflamed causing aches, pains, and menopausal arthritis,” says Dr. Ross.
Keratin is the substance responsible to keep nails strong and healthy. Estrogen also helps hydrates and nourish the nails. “With menopause, the loss of estrogen and a decrease in keratin, the nails become drier, weaker and break more easily,” Dr. Ross explains.
Changes in taste or dry mouth
Changes in taste, a burning tongue and dry mouth are not unusual during menopause. “There are estrogen receptors in the mouth that are disrupted by menopause causing these symptoms,” says Dr. Ross. “Dryness of mucous membranes throughout the body is common. A dry mouth and low production of saliva can increase the risk of getting cavities and gum disease.”
Estrogen helps hydrate the skin, and when levels decrease during menopause, and your skin can be dry and itchy as a result. “Estrogen is the perfect body hydrator,” Dr. Ross states. “When there is a decrease in estrogen the skin can become drier and itchier. The vulva is especially more prone to dryness and itching as a result.”
Tossing and turning in the middle of the night? Your hormonal changes may be to blame.
“Many women expect hot flashes, but what many women don’t realize is that sleep can be disrupted, too,” says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB/GYN, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale University Medical School.
You may also notice your body doesn’t naturally lubricate itself (down there) in the same way. “Many women experience vaginal dryness, often a year or two after the last menstrual period (whereas hot flashes tend to occur early, sometimes even before you skip a period),” Dr. Minkin explains.
Increased urinary infections
Vaginal dryness can also contribute to UTIs. “The lack of estrogen causes the skin of the vagina and surrounding area to thin and become dry and sometimes irritated so it makes it easier for bacteria to enter into the bladder and cause urinary tract infections,” says Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, FACOG, and board-certified gynecologist at DTLA Gynecology.
If this sounds like you, the good news is that there are many remedies for vaginal dryness. “Women can go to their local pharmacy and pick up over-the-counter moisturizers like Replens, which work quite well for the dryness,” Dr. Minkin states. “And women who experience discomfort during sex can use a lubricant like Replens Silky Smooth, which can be super helpful.”
Hormonal fluctuations can lead to headaches, which can happen to some women who enter menopause. “While not completely understood, many women get migraines related to female hormone fluctuations in their bodies, hence why some women get ‘menstrual’ migraines,” Dr. Yamaguchi explains. “As estrogen levels drop with menopause, some women do initially get an increase in migraines, as well as their migraines, are estrogen associated.”
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
You may be surprised to learn that low levels of estrogen can raise cholesterol.
“While not completely understood, lower estrogen levels seem to increase cholesterol so that increased cholesterol has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Yamaguchi states.
Increased risk of osteoporosis
When estrogen levels go down, bone density also decreases. “Low estrogen levels cause a loss in bone mass/density which can lead to osteoporosis and then osteoporotic fractures,” says Dr. Yamaguchi.
Increased risk of pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic floor weakness
Although it’s well-known that lack of estrogen leads to a loss in muscle mass, it’s also tied to thinning of vaginal skin. As a result, “while women likely had mild prolapse earlier in life, they may not notice until after menopause,” Dr. Yamaguchi explains.
As “normal” as some of these symptoms might be, you don’t have to suffer through them alone. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor about them, and they can help you come up with a solution that might help, with it’s hormone replacement therapy, an SSRI, or something. And don’t forget to keep up with your yearly medical screenings, especially as far as heart disease and osteoporosis are concerned.
- Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA
- Mary Jane Minkin, OB/GYN, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale University Medical School.
- Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, FACOG, Board Certified Gynecologist at DTLA Gynecology