Once a taboo topic, menopause and its symptoms are now discussed openly and information on the subject is widely available. There are roughly 33 classic symptoms of menopause. For menopausal women, a concise cataloging of what to expect during this transition time can be invaluable. While not every woman will experience every symptom, such lists provide vital facts in an assessable form.
In dealing with these symptoms, it can be important to understand what is happening in the body that is causing them to occur. Activity related to the menstrual cycle is slowly decreasing in preparation for the day when ovulation and menstruation ceases all together. The ovaries will decrease the amount of progesterone and estrogen that are produced. When menopause is complete, a woman’s childbearing years have come to an end.
Since the symptoms of menopause can cover a wide variety of areas from emotions to heart rate, understanding that these manifestations are completely normal can bring great peace of mind. For example, while many women recognize such classic symptoms as hot flashes or irregular periods, they may not know that tingling sensations under the skin or in the extremities may also accompany menopause.
Menopause actually occurs when a woman’s menstrual activity has stopped completely. This constitutes a major change in the body and that change cannot occur overnight. For this reason, the years leading up to menopause are called perimenopause. It is during this time of hormone decrease and fluctuation that these classic menopausal symptoms will occur. By the time actual menopause arrives, the symptoms will have decreased or disappeared completely.
The perimenopausal period may begin as early as the late 30s or early 40s. One of the first symptoms to appear will be irregular periods. Women who for years experienced regular cycles may suddenly notice that their monthly periods have become erratic. Hot flashes and night sweats are also commonly recognized symptoms along with weight gain and fatigue. These classic symptoms will often be the first indicators that the perimenopausal years have begun.
The 33 symptoms of menopause cover several different areas of concern including physical changes and changes in sexual desire. Some of the physical symptoms that a woman may encounter are incontinence, dry and itchy skin, achy joints, flatulence, indigestion, bloating and brittle fingernails. A woman’s libido may drop significantly as well and she may experience vaginal dryness. Of course, no two women are alike and the number and intensity of symptoms experienced will vary.
Another hallmark of the perimenopausal phase are concerns pertaining to emotions and mental health. Some women note an increase in irritability while others notice dramatic swings in mood. A sense of anxiety is reported by many women as well as feelings of apprehension or dread. Memory lapses and difficulty concentrating may also be experience. Feelings of depression can be a serious problem and many women feel the need to reach out for help or counseling at this time.
While an awareness of these symptoms can be very beneficial, it is also wise to discuss the process of menopause with a physician. Some of the symptoms of menopause can also indicate other medical issues. For example, the rapid heartbeat and palpitations that accompany menopause may also indicate serious heart-related issues. A doctor can advise as to whether or not tests should be performed to rule out any cardiovascular problems. Other medical issues that have symptoms in common with menopause are hypothyroidism and clinical depression.