A new report for MPs has said that all women should be invited for a menopause check-up when they reach the age of 45.
The Menopause All-Party Parliamentary Group’s report, which criticises the ‘inadequate’ level of current support, follows research into women’s experiences, including difficulties getting a diagnosis and accessing hormone-replacement therapy (HRT).
With more of a spotlight being placed on the menopause, and its effects on women’s’ health and wellbeing, we’re taking a look at some of the less common signs and symptoms.
Hot flushes, mood swings and low libido are all commonly recognised symptoms of the menopause. But they are by no means the only issues women may experience.
There are other, less well-known menopause signs which can cause problems, and it’s important to talk about them, to help others recognise what’s normal and to help break the stigma which still exists around a completely natural stage of life.
Here are six of the less well-known symptoms of the menopause.
If you’re starting to notice menopause symptoms and are wondering if you’re at the beginning of that journey, it can be helpful to take a closer look with blood testing. Armed with the knowledge this can reveal, you can take steps to optimise your health and wellbeing by introducing the right lifestyle changes for you.
A burning tongue
Hot flushes are commonly understood to be a key symptom of the menopause. But it’s not just the upper body that can suddenly feel this sense of warmth. It’s estimated that around 8% of menopausal women experience a burning sensation on the tongue.
This burning can feel like a sudden, short pain in the mouth and tends to be more common in women who also experience metallic tastes, mouth dryness, soreness, or tingling.
It’s believed that the sensation is caused by lower oestrogen levels activating pain-sensitive nerves around the taste buds in the tongue.
When it comes to easing the symptoms, medications, including low dose antidepressants, can be recommended. These replace the natural painkilling endorphins, which dip when oestrogen levels are low.
Another little-known symptom is ‘formication’ - a sensation which leaves around 21% of women feeling like they have insects crawling under their skin.
Again, this symptom is linked to lower levels of oestrogen. This hormone stimulates the production of collagen which helps keep skin moist. When levels of the hormone fall, this naturally dries out the skin, causing it to feel itchy.
This can improve as oestrogen levels stabilise, but it’s recommended that women eat a diet rich in healthy fats, including salmon, walnuts, and eggs, avoid very hot baths or showers, use gentle soaps, exfoliate, and moisturise regularly, drink plenty of water, and reduce alcohol and smoking.
Another unpleasant sensation some women can experience is a feeling of electric shocks. These painful jolts, which affect around 15% of women, are often felt before a hot flush.
It’s not clear what causes this symptom, but it’s generally believed to be related to fluctuating hormone levels impacting how the nervous system functions.
It’s recommended to eat a diet high in soybeans, tofu, chickpeas, broccoli and pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds to help increase the levels of natural hormones in the body.
Surveys show that three in four women experience night sweats or hot flushes, where oestrogen levels drop, triggering the hypothalamus gland to think the body is overheating.
Additionally, as oestrogen decreases, testosterone levels increase, boosting levels of bacteria in sweat. This increase in perspiration can build up, causing body odour which is harder to keep on top of.
Wearing breathable clothing and using fans, cooling sprays and cooling pillows at night are also good ways to help regulate your temperature.
Antiperspirants, particularly ones with antibacterial agents, can help reduce the sweating by blocking sweat glands. If the problem is serious, GPs can recommend extra-strength deodorants.
Another lesser-known symptom of menopause is tinnitus. Most commonly, it sounds like a constant ringing in the ears, although it can also be heard as buzzing, humming, or hissing.
Data from the NHS suggests around 13% of British adults in the wider population experience tinnitus. Although a direct link with menopause hasn’t been established, it’s thought to be linked to the same drop in hormone levels as other symptoms.
experts believe the condition may be linked to blood flow in the ear. A sudden drop in oestrogen can limit the flow to the inner ear tube, potentially interrupting the nerve signals and affecting how sound is perceived.
Deep breathing exercises and yoga are thought to help alleviate the symptom by reducing stress.
It’s hardly surprising that with all these unwanted side effects, women experiencing menopause may also feel angry and frustrated at times.
Mood swings are a common symptom because oestrogen plays an important role in regulating the 'happy hormone' serotonin. As oestrogen levels fall, it becomes harder to control negative emotions.
Doctors advise the same stress-relieving activities as with the other symptoms, including yoga and meditation. It’s also recommended that menopausal women explore outlets to help release anger, such as boxing and other exercise, which can help reduce rage, while also boosting serotonin levels.
Measuring your menopause markers
If you’re starting to notice menopause symptoms and are wondering if you’re at the beginning of that journey, it can be helpful to take a closer look with blood testing.
Armed with the knowledge this can reveal, you can take steps to optimise your health and wellbeing by introducing the right lifestyle changes for you.
A simple home blood test
With GP waiting times increasing in many practices, and appointments for non-urgent care more difficult to access, private blood testing is becoming a common alternative for many people looking to take control of their health.
This test is available as a finger prick or vacutainer sample collection option. You can also choose to visit a Circle Health Hospital or have a nurse home visit.