You think you know what to expect from menopause? Hot flushes, night sweats, no more periods, low mood, fluctuating hormones? Think again. From your mid 40’s onwards there are some unusual symptoms about menopause you need to know.
You might not expect these to happen to you. But I’d like to bet them some of them will. They can have a big impact on your day to day living.
Unusual Things about Menopause
You need to know that there are big changes happening to your body during peri-menopause.
Here’s a few unusual symptoms (most of which happened to me) you might not have thought about:
My heart began to miss a beat every now and then and the sensation of palpitations is odd to say the least. It is perfectly normal and common-place. You might be scared that you’re in the early throes of a heart attack like I was. But this is unlikely.
About a third of all women in peri-menopause will experience this curious symptom. You’re best to try and avoid (or drastically cut down) spicy foods, red wine and chocolate. Go easy on the coffees and colas to as caffeine can make it worse.
2. Dental Problems
I remember In my 20’s being told that you lose* a tooth for every child you bear but for me the problems started during peri-menopause.
It is not unusual to develop bleeding gums, wobbly teeth and receding gums from your late 40’s onwards. This has been attributed to declining levels of the hormone Oestrogen. You might notice that your enamel is looking decidedly yellow after years of abuse from wine and other acidic food and drink.
I developed early stage gingivitis (thankfully due to the work of my dentist and hygienist this is much improved*). I’ve also had to have several fillings replaced. A crown has come off and the bit of tooth underneath can’t support another one so it’s either an implant (can’t afford it) or an extraction (going to talk to the dentist next week).
As much as I don’t like visiting the dentist, and it has cost me a fortune over the last 3 years, I am glad to still have my own teeth. Regular dental visits are essential.
3. Your Skeletal Frame
One of the sad things about your oestrogen levels gradually falling is the rise in potential bone issues. Your bones have certainly aged with you but the real problems with bone density hits home when your periods have stopped. In your 60’s you will lose* an alarming amount of bone density. And after falls, fractures are common.
Make sure that your diet is high in foods that give you calcium – your body can’t hang on to it so it needs replenishing daily.
Absolutely crucial is vitamin D. We generally don’t get enough good quality sunlight here in the UK during winter months so you will need to take a supplement.
Stay active too and include exercises that keep your core strong to prevent falls and potential breaks. Pilates and Yoga are good exercises to strengthen your inner core.
4. Oh My Hair!
As a redhead I’m still not grey at 60 but unfortunately my hair started falling out by the brush-full from about age 45 until I was seriously worried. No one had told me about this unusual menopause symptom, it was alarming! Apparently this happens to about 40% of women in peri-menopause.
My husband does the hoovering in our house as I’m a dust sneezer, and his complaints about my hair clogging the hoover grew by the week!
The hair loss settled down but my hair is noticeably thinner than in my pre-menopause years.
5. Oh My Skin!
My skin was and remains a nightmare. Sensitivity increased and I still have to be careful what products I put on it. I check everything I use in the shower or bath and wash my hair and clothes with. Natural and organic products seem to suit me best. Anything else causes incredible itching with a feeling like ants crawling just under the surface of the skin.
I’ve got a freckly complexion anyway but no one prepared me about freckles joining together and making huge sun-damaged areas on my face!
I ended up with a pre-cancerous lesion on my lip that I had to have taken off (not pleasant). Years of sun abuse came home to roost for me right there. It was the surgeon’s advice to always use a moisturiser containing a SPF30 and to buy a hat.
Please, even if you haven’t before, buy a wide-brimmed sun hat and use sun screen. I’ve done this religiously since then but that’s no guarantee that another problem won’t occur.
And don’t get me started about spots! I’ve barely had any since my late teens but menopause acne is actually a real thing! Who knew? I still get awful lumps and bumps that come either with or without pus and throb nonetheless.
And where on earth did these huge open pores come from? At least my failing eyesight means I don’t see a lot of them unless I put my glasses on!
Falling oestrogen also means that you might experience hair growing in places you don’t want it. Cue the hairier face and the development of a rather fetching blond moustache for me. My tweezers work overtime and I’m seriously considering investing in one of those hair removal devices like No! No!. I need to address this problem as I don’t want to start taking a razor to my face.
6. Vaginal Problems
I was completely unaware that this unusual symptom would be such an issue for me.
From my mid 40’s I started to experience vaginal dryness and inflammation. As my oestrogen levels got lower the dryness got worse. Eventually bleeding started to occur as the vaginal lining got thinner and less elastic.
I was eventually diagnosed with vaginal atrophy and fibroids that I had to have removed as a day surgery case. After discussion with my surgeon we agreed that he would perform an endometrial ablation at the same time (lasering away the lining of the womb). I never looked back and the heavy blood loss, including clots that had bothered me for years went immediately.
However, the lack of oestrogen still meant that sex was uncomfortable due to dryness. My GP prescribed a topical hormone cream to be applied internally and there was some improvement. After a while I decided it was too messy and gradually stopped using it. I replaced it with a good quality lubrication that seems to work for us.
7. Changes in Your muscles
Low oestrogen has been linked to joint pains and inflammation and arthritis (an inflammatory illness in itself) often starts to give problems at this time.
My issue was in my neck. Years of working in an office and on computers had exacerbated the problem. A particularly alarming episode happened when my neck went into a spasm for months. This meant that I had hardly any movement, and I was eventually diagnosed with arthritis in my neck relating to 2 of the vertebrae.
“General wear and tear” I was told by a specialist. No one told me that although it wasn’t unusual for my age (57 at the time) it was another of the more unusual menopause symptoms caused by falling oestrogen.
8. Development or Worsening of Migraines and Headaches
From my mid 40’s out of the blue I had a scary episode of another unusual symptom of menopause. I developed ocular migraine.
The first time it happened I was driving which was terrifying! A visit to my GP led to an immediate referral to hospital as the symptoms I described were the same as that of a detached retina. This needs immediate treatment to save the sight.
I still have these from time to time when I’m tired, been overdoing it or when bright low sun shines directly into my eyes.
However, another cause of migraines and headaches may be due to muscle changes and therefore changes in posture in your shoulders and your neck. Address any posture issues if applicable.
If the headaches are in your sinuses or on the brow area and if you find you are sneezing a lot more then your peri-menopause may be causing sensitivity to allergens. Hay fever may become worse. You could also develop allergies to things you’ve never had a problem with before eg dust mites.
So the Lessons I’ve Learned From my Menopause Years are:
- our female hormones – Oestrogen and Progesterone are incredibly important to our general health and wellbeing throughout our reproductive lives. Support them with a healthy diet.
- As they decline symptoms begin.
- When you are at your most vulnerable you need to be strong and even argumentative with a lot of medical professionals.
- GP’s are mostly not trained in menopause and hormones.
- You need to do your own research.
- You will invariably be offered treatment only for the symptoms you present with at the doctor’s surgery and no one will assess the bigger menopause picture with you.
- Whilst hot flushes, night sweats, low mood and weight gain are known as common menopause symptoms, the unusual ones outlined above that happened to me are not so well known or expected.
- This is not a definite list of unusual symptoms – there are many more. I’ve covered these as they are the ones that affected me the most.
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