31 Most Common Menopause Symptoms
Updated December 11, 2018
Reviewer Deborah Horton
Menopause is something that every woman goes through at some point. Natural menopause can occur between age 35 or 60, depending on the woman. More research needs to be done to determine why menopause occurs at any time during such a broad age range.
However, some factors can cause early onset of natural menopause. One study shows that smokers may go through menopause as early as 35, while non-smokers are more likely to have onset around the age of 40. If you are in your mid to late 30s or older and start having any of these symptoms, it is likely that you are starting the process of menopause.
Hot flashes or hot flushes are the most common symptom of menopause, occurring in 74 percent of surveyed women. A hot flash or hot flush is when a wave of heat or warmth floods over the body. It creates a redness in the skin, which is why it is frequently called a flush. This is the body's chief reaction to lowered estrogen.
Hormone changes can influence weight gain and redistribution of fat. While you may not experience significant weight gain, you may notice that your weight redistributes itself to settle more around your waist and less in other areas.
Night sweats are similar to hot flashes but occur during sleeping. The body is flushed with heat, causing extreme sweating while sleeping. This can cause disruption of sleep, which may be one reason why tiredness and fatigue are so common among menopausal women. You'll know if you have night sweats because you will wake up to soaked sheets.
Tiredness and fatigue are quite common among menopausal women. Part of this could be due to insomnia and night sweats that many women experience. However, the hormonal changes going on could also be a factor in causing fatigue. You may find it difficult to get moving in the morning or get tired easily during physical activity.
Insomnia is a common menopause symptom. Hormonal changes in the body cause changes to dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which can lead to an inability to sleep. This is one reason for fatigue, and it is also contributed to by night sweats.
Hormonal changes, fatigue, and a combination of other symptoms are likely to make you irritable during menopause. You may find that you are quick to snap at people when they bother you or interrupt you during a task. You may also find that you get more easily frustrated while trying to perform tasks.
Many women experience depression during menopause. Depression can occur for many reasons, but the hormonal imbalance does play a role. More often the combination of the hormone changes and the other symptoms of menopause lead to the depressive state. Many women going through menopause are on antidepressants.
One of the first menopause symptoms you will notice is irregular periods. Your periods may become irregular before you notice any other symptoms of menopause. Irregularity can widely vary from woman to woman and can last for several months or years before other symptoms occur.
Many women assume that irregular periods from menopause will be further apart, but this is not always the case. In many women periods become closer together and then further apart, becoming nearly impossible to predict. You could go two weeks between cycles then six weeks before the one after that. Any irregularity in periods can be a symptom of menopause.
Loss of Sex Drive
The decrease in estrogen from menopause can often cause a loss of sex drive or libido. Many women who are going through menopause do not feel their best. They feel as though they are not as sexually attractive, which can lead to not wanting to have sex. Also, the lack of estrogen can take away sex drive.
Vaginal dryness is another symptom of menopause that can contribute to a loss of sex drive. As estrogen levels decrease, the vagina can become very dry. This can cause sex to be very uncomfortable, causing women do not want to engage in the activity. Vaginal dryness can also lead to a pH imbalance which can lead to yeast infections.
Some women experience hair loss or thinning of their hair during menopause. This symptom is not as common, or it may not be immediately noticeable. It may occur slowly over time, and not be noticeable until the significant loss has already occurred. Some researchers speculate that hair loss and thinning is simply coincidental and common among older women in general.
Many women have difficulty concentrating during menopause. The lack of concentration has as much to do with distracting symptoms as it does with hormonal changes. You may find that you have difficulty focusing on complex tasks. Multi-tasking may become completely impossible. You may also have difficulty remaining engaged in reading or watching movies or television.
Short-term memory loss or memory lapses are also a common menopause symptom. Part of this could be because you are not getting enough sleep. Fatigue and other symptoms combined with hormone changes could cause you to become more forgetful. Usually, these memory lapses are temporary, and you can eventually remember what you were trying to recall.
Some scary medical conditions can cause dizziness, so it is important to get checked out by a doctor if you have frequent dizzy spells. However, dizziness can occur as a result of lowered estrogen. When you have dizzy spells you will get a spinning sensation, may feel lightheaded, and may lose your balance. Dizziness can lead to falls, so it is important to tackle this symptom as soon as it presents itself.
Three types of incontinence are common in menopausal women. The first is stress incontinence, which occurs when the bladder leaks when laughing or coughing. The second is urge incontinence, where the bladder gives almost no warning of being full and cannot be held in spite of your best efforts. The third type of incontinence is overflow, in which the bladder empties without giving the signal that it is full.
You may experience one or all three of these types of incontinence when you go through menopause. It is unclear, however, whether this is a symptom of menopause or if it is simply coincidental that many women have incontinence during this age range.
Bloating can occur during menopause for many different reasons. It could be a side effect of digestive issues as the hormone changes cause changes in how food digests. It could also be related to irregular periods or the hormone changes in general. Bloating could last for hours or days, and usually presents as fullness in the belly that can sometimes be painful.
Because hormones and the immune system are linked, changes in hormones can sometimes lead to the development of allergies. You may discover that you are allergic to things that you never had a problem with before. Lactose allergies are common, as is hay fever and other seasonal allergies. Unfortunately, these new allergies are often not temporary and will probably stick around long after your body adjusts to the new hormone levels.
Low estrogen levels can lead to dehydration, which may cause brittle nails. Brittle nails could also be a sign of nutritional deficiency, so if you notice this symptom, you should check with your doctor to make sure there isn't another underlying cause. Brittle nails can usually be overcome with nutritional supplements orally or for the nails themselves, as well as making sure you are staying hydrated.
Body Odor Changes
The hormone changes your body goes through during menopause can cause you to sweat much more profusely than you ever have before. Also, the changes in hormones themselves can cause changes in body odor. This menopause symptom can be embarrassing, but the easiest way to overcome it is to add extra showers and use scented lotions and deodorant sprays.
Lower estrogen levels can cause over-stimulation of the nervous system and circulatory system. This can lead to heart palpitations or a sudden strong beating of the heart that is difficult to calm. This can be one of the scarier symptoms of menopause. Because an irregular heartbeat could have many different cardiac causes as well, it is important that you discuss this symptom with a doctor if it occurs.
Serotonin and dopamine are affected by dropped estrogen levels, and these mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters can be responsible for high anxiety. Anxiety can present as a feeling of impending doom for little or no cause. In extreme cases, it can lead to panic attacks which can be debilitating and painful. Some women feel mild anxiety as well simply due to the other symptoms they are experiencing and the fact that they are getting older.
You may experience breast pain, breast tenderness, or soreness as a result of the hormonal changes of menopause. This menopause symptom usually presents itself as tenderness or pain when the breasts are touched or stimulated. It can cause problems with libido, and it can also cause extreme discomfort when wearing a bra.
It is important to note that breast pain and tenderness can also be a sign of a more serious condition. If breast pain lasts more than two or three months or worsens, you should see a doctor. You should also be doing monthly self-examinations on your breasts and reporting any lumps or discharge to your doctor immediately.
Headaches during menopause are most frequent in women who frequently had headaches accompany their periods. When you get headaches due to hormone changes in the body, they can be difficult to treat. While headaches are quite common as a menopause symptom, any severe headaches that prevent you from fully functioning or lasting more than two days should be reported to your doctor.
About half of women experience joint pain as a menopause symptom. Joint pain is a soreness in the joints, usually after exertion or exercise, but sometimes with prolonged sitting. Joint pain can be a symptom of arthritis or other medical conditions common among menopausal women, so this is another symptom you'll want to report to your doctor if it persists or becomes difficult to move.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome is a less frequent symptom of menopause. It is thought that lower estrogen leads to a destruction of the bitter taste buds, which then sets off pain in the surrounding tissue. When you have burning mouth syndrome, you may experience a burning sensation or pain in your mouth, tongue, or gums.
The Sensation Of Electric Shocks
The feeling of light electric shocks can sometimes occur during menopause. It is believed that this is due to the lower estrogen levels wreaking havoc on the nervous system. It may feel something like a static shock and can occur anywhere on the body. It usually lasts just a brief moment but can be quite unpleasant. Many women report that they get electric shocks across the forehead just before a hot flash.
Changes in estrogen levels can disrupt the natural transit of food in the stomach and intestines, which can lead to some digestive issues. You may experience bloating, increased gas, cramping, or nausea. Typically, these symptoms do not last long, and only occur when eating certain foods. If you have stomach pain or increased gas lasting more than two days, you should see a doctor make sure there isn't another underlying cause.
Gingivitis and bleeding gums are common among menopausal women. While this could be the result of aging or poor dental hygiene, some studies have linked it to lowered estrogen production. It is important that you address any gum issues with your dentist or doctor as quickly as possible. Left unchecked it could lead to serious dental issues and infections.
Muscle tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders, is a common symptom of menopause. Lowered estrogen levels result in increased cortisol production. Cortisol is also sometimes called the stress hormone. Increased cortisol can lead to muscle tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders, but could occur anywhere in the body.
Itchy skin that feels as though something is crawling on you is another symptom of menopause. The lower estrogen levels in your body also lower the collagen in your skin. This can lead to thinner and dryer skin, which can lead to an itchy or crawling feeling. Making sure that you keep your skin moisturized is very important for menopausal women.
Tingling In Limbs
You may experience tingling, or a feeling of something is crawling on you, particularly on your arms, legs, fingers, or toes. This is frequently caused by the havoc that the lack of estrogen plays on the nervous system. The feeling could be akin to when your foot or hand "falls asleep." There can, however, be many other more serious causes of this tingling sensation, so it should be reported to your doctor right away.
When To Get Help
Most menopause symptoms are mild at first and worsen as estrogen levels decrease. You may want to seek out help for treatment of your menopausal symptoms by talking to your doctor if your symptoms are severe.
Also, you may want to consider seeking out a qualified therapist to help you through this transition. A psychologist can help you manage symptoms of depression and anxiety, and help you work through the emotional ramifications of going through this major life change.