Menopause’s Strangest Symptoms

Featured Article, Healthy Living, Menopause, Women's Health
on March 2, 2012

Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, trouble sleeping: When you think of menopause, these are several of the symptoms you expect to experience. Research tends to focus on the more common side effects of “the change,” yet there are plenty of other ways your body may react to hormonal shifts—and some of them can seem downright strange. If you find yourself experiencing any of these odd manifestations of menopause, just know you’re not alone and you’re not going crazy. “Don’t be afraid to discuss any symptoms you’re having with your doctor because he’s probably heard about them before and there’s usually help,” says Dr. Machelle Seibel, co-author of Eat to Defeat Menopause.

Here, our guide to five unnerving menopause symptoms, plus expert advice for handling each one.

Strange Symptom: Itchy Skin

As estrogen levels decrease, many menopausal women experience excessive dryness in the skin, which can cause itching. A small percentage of women, though, suffer from formication, a neurological condition in which a woman perceives there are things crawling under her skin. “Estrogen and hormone receptors are on every single cell in the body, including the nerve cells under the skin,” according to Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause. Erratic hormonal changes stimulate those receptors, which can lead to strange sensations like prickling, tingling or itching.

How to deal: If dryness is to blame, making a few changes to your skincare routine (such as aggressive use of moisturizer or switching to soap-free cleansers) can help. For a case of the creepy crawlies, see your doctor: Hormone replacement therapy and/or herbal supplements can stabilize the hormone shifts that may be causing this symptom.


Strange Symptom: Heavy Periods

Women going through menopause typically have irregular periods. When “that time of the month” finally does arrive, blood flow can often be shockingly heavy. During a normal period, tissue builds up in the uterus and then is sloughed off when you’re not pregnant, resulting in a period. When progesterone is not being released as often to cause that sloughing, the tissue builds up, leading to flooding. “I’ve heard stories from women who soaked through their clothing or couldn’t leave the house because the flow was so heavy,” says Northrup.

How to deal: This is a symptom that should be discussed with your doctor, as occasionally heavy bleeding can be a symptom of fibroids, cancer or other more serious conditions. More commonly, though, your physician may recommend dietary changes or perhaps going on birth control for a few months, both of which can be beneficial. Laser ablation treatments on the uterus (an outpatient procedure) are also an alternative to a hysterectomy, says Northrup.


Strange Symptom: Heart Palpitations

This is a common yet rarely discussed condition that many women begin experiencing during perimenopause—the 10 or so years before the onset of menopause. As with hot flashes, the exact cause of these episodes of irregular heartbeats isn’t fully understood, but anxiety, another common yet strange symptom of menopause, may be to blame.

How to deal: “Typically, this symptom is benign and as you move into menopause it might stop,” says Seibel, who also says estrogen therapy can help, too. If you experience any other warning signs of a heart attack, though, such as neck or jaw pain and shortness of breath, be sure to seek help right away. Otherwise, you can wait to speak with your doctor at your next appointment.


Strange Symptom: Urinary Tract Infections

Estrogen loss can cause the protective tissue surrounding the urethra to shrink. This leaves the tube through which we urinate “more exposed to the bacteria that leads to urinary tract infections,” according to Seibel.

How to deal: Hormone replacement therapy—both oral and topical treatments—can help rebuild the protective tissue surrounding the vaginal opening, while products like Replens can be applied topically to soothe any dryness and discomfort down below.


Strange Symptom: Dry Mouth

There are plenty of reasons why women experience dry mouth later in life, including certain prescription drugs or lack of hydration. Menopause may also be to blame: The mucus membranes in the mouth are also loaded with estrogen receptors, so as the body produces less of this hormone, your mouth may tend to feel less moist. Hormonal changes can also cause altered taste sensations or even a burning feeling in the mouth.

How to deal: Treating dry mouth is more important than you may think. When the mouth is dry, bacteria can easily grow, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Also, Seibel points out that women who experience dry mouth also seem to have an increased risk of bone thinning. If you experience this symptom, you may want to talk with your doctor about checking your bone density.

  • Barb

    I have to say that these are not the only strange things that happen in menopause. You need to know what I have experienced and ” yes ” it scared me to death! Anxiety, depression, emotional crying, up all hours of the night numbness and tingling in the body and shaking . I also started having eye problems strangely not able to focus at times and ringing in my ears when it got quiet at night. Hot flashes led to freezing cold or a strange feeling of cold in my legs and arms that made cringe. I also felt closed in , spacy in my head like I was not there. I would wake up in a panic and have panic attacks . My blood pressure went up and down like a yoyo. I swear Ithought I was mentally going crazy and needed to be committed

    • Tracy Byle

      I’ve been experiencing all of those symptoms too, the anxiety and panic are the worse for me then heavy bleeding which has led to severe anemia at times. Im so ready after at least 2 years of these symptoms for it to be over

    • Mia

      OMG I have all this symptoms. I am going to different doctors and I was thinking even it is onset of MS, since it is very hard to diagnose that disease. I am going crazy thinking that is MS and it is a matter of time when they gonna diagnose me. Few days ago I started to be more positive and I am trying to change my mind and started goggling about premenopausal symptoms. I am 40 years old with regular periods so I wasn’t thinking that this might be premenopausal symptoms, I will start looking in this direction . I have to stop thinking about MS because I am going crazy about my future.

    • Dr. Tikki

      Hi Barb! Thank you so much for sharing. I am a part of that same club!! LOL EVERY single thing that you mentioned I either have or currently experienced in meno!! You explained it so well and precise. It makes you crazy, anxious and worst you think you have some dreadful thing or another. Again thanks for sharing.

    • Kelly

      Me too, I’ve experienced many intense symptoms that I didn’t know until extensive research were related to changing hormones as I’m getting older (in my mid-40s). I’m amazed and annoyed that the many doctors I told about my brain fog, forgetfulness, etc. didn’t suggest it might be peri-menopause simply after looking at my age. I’m pretty much a textbook case. Very, very annoying. These symptoms should be common knowledge among women and especially all types of doctors.

  • John

    Look I know this sounds strange but I have seen a change in my wife of 16 years, she looks depressed all the time, UTI’s, moody, now all of a sudden she is emotionless, has a strange frown, teeth look different, she’s only 36 , and now all of a sudden she wants a divorce out of nowhere, and doesn’t even care about the kids. Everyone here sees a huge change almost like a different person. I’m almost sure it is menopause, but if I mention it she goes ape shit. Any ideas to have her tested?

  • Debra Zaragoza

    I agree with every symptom Barb mentioned, and I’m so thankful I am not the only one who has thought she was going insane! As I read, I mentally thought “check” for every one of them! I am 46, and have been having a progression of these symptoms for the past 2 years. Going to my doctor didn’t help me much, so beginning this Spring, 2016, I have begun a steady 5 day/week walking regimen, drinking LOTS more water than I used to, cutting out sugar and processed foods (helps lessen the duration and intensity of my flashes), and I began taking an herbal “Estrotone” complex that includes Evening Primrose Oil, Schizandra, Ginger, Black Cohosh, Chaste Tree, and Rosemary. Before that, I was taking an herbal combo that included dong quai, borage oil, mexi-yam, and soy, but just didn’t seem to help as much with the night flashes and creepy crawly feeling. I do get these symptoms still, they just don’t seem as intense. I think the scariest feeling for me has been that out of control “I just want to fly off the handle and destroy something” feeling. I am usually a very calm, soft spoken person, and my family doesn’t know how to handle the emotional mess I have sometimes become these past two years. Also, trying to have a positive attitude, and knowing that it is perimenopause, and not some life threatening illness, have gone a long way in helping me cope. Thank you for the encouraging posts!