Some women consider menopause frightening: a landmark that represents the end of their reproductive capacities and their ability to enjoy a healthy sexual life. Others see it as a form of liberation from a lifetime of pain, cramps, headaches and PMS symptoms.
But the majority of women dread menopause as it comes together with a large palette of debilitating symptoms and health side-effects that are unpleasant and often need medical treatment.
Young women don’t fear menopause, as it is a phenomenon which seems to be narrowed down to women in their fifties. However, according to recent statistics and data, early menopause is more frequent than we like to admit. There are signs and symptoms women tend to ignore or associate with other types of health conditions.
Unfortunately, many subtle illnesses act just like menopause, so you really need to go see a doctor under some circumstances. Let’s take a look today at some menopause signs and symptom and understand when it is time to visit a specialist no matter your age.
1. Most Common Premature Menopause Symptoms
Natural menopause is considered to occur around the age of 50. If women enter menopause before the age of 40, however, this is considered premature menopause, no matter if it is natural (caused by genetics for instance) or induced (caused by medical procedures). Premature menopause is associated with symptoms that can include:
- Hot flashes.
- Irregular or missed periods.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Bladder irritability and incontinence.
- Mood swings.
- Dry skin, eyes or mouth.
- Sleep problems.
- Lowered libido.
If you experience these signs and symptoms, and you are around the age of fifty, you might consider they are just the usual red flags that announce your transition to another stage in your life.
But what all women should know is that many of these symptoms can be warning signs for other health issues. No matter your age, you should know a few things about the differential diagnosis.
2. The Menopause Triad or Something Scarier? What Do the Main Symptoms Mean?
Menopause, early or not, is usually described by women on a triad of symptoms: hot flashes, irregular periods and mood swings. As we said above, comes with many other signs, but these three are the most commonly known and popularized.
- Hot Flashes
One of the most common signs is hot flashes – you feel suddenly warm, and your face and neck get all red. Sudden perspiration usually accompanies hot flashes, and the duo is almost always associated with menopause.
Go to a doctor if:
- You are warm and sweaty all day long without interruptions.
- You have heart palpitations.
- You lose weight without dieting.
These are signs that you might suffer from hyperthyroidism and not pre-menopause symptoms.
- Irregular periods
You may bleed lighter or heavier than you usually do, have two periods closer together, you skip a period or you bleed for a few more days than you normally do.
Go to a doctor if:
- You experience periods with blood clots.
- Your periods are heavy and gushing.
- You spot between periods.
- You bleed after intercourse.
- Your periods last longer than 7 day total or more than 2 days than your regular time frame.
- Your period comes sooner than the 21 days milestone.
These are the signs that should send you immediately to a specialist and get checked up for thyroid diseases, uterine polyps or fibroids, or uterine/cervical cancer.
- Mood Swings
Women and bouncing hormones, what other thing can better describe the mood swings associated with menopause? This is a common mistake even some doctors do, so let’s get your facts in check.
Go to a doctor if:
- You only feel depressed, but you lack all other symptoms.
- You ruled out hyperthyroidism as a cause for depression.
- You also experience weight changes, insomnia, social withdrawal, anxiety, the inability to concentrate, lack of interest in life and work activities.
You may actually suffer from clinical depression and you “won’t get over it because it’s just menopause”. If you experience these symptoms while still having a normal period, you should check with your physician.
3. Less Known Symptoms You Need to Cross-Check with Your Specialist:
Some menopause signs are easily mistaken for other health symptoms and vice versa. Besides the most common three symptoms we talked about, menopause comes with a large area of body changes and insufferable side-effects.
While you can’t blame it for everything that you feel is wrong with you, you also cannot overlook the fact that some symptoms, as common and as negligible as they may seem, can signal not just menopause but other more serious health issues.
- Hair loss and thinning. A common side-effect, it can be a serious symptom for young women, telling them about chemical imbalances.
- Sleep disorders. Besides insomnia, sleep restlessness and interrupted sleep are commonly associated with menopause. However, you should see a doctor for a reliable differential diagnosis with other physical or psychological disturbances.
- Attention deficits. They are a symptom of menopause just as they can be symptoms of clinical depression and other underlying health conditions.
- Memory lapses. If momentarily and rare, they can be associated with menopause, but if becoming regular, you need to seek medical attention to rule out neurological diseases or other health conditions.
- Bloating. Common in women of all ages, with and without other menopause symptoms, bloating is considered a common occurrence in menopause. However, persistent, painful, unexplained and recurring bloating lasting more than 3 days in a row should send you to the doctor to check for colon issues, ovarian cancer, and other underlying illnesses.
- Allergies. Common in menopause, allergies can become truly debilitating. Seek immediate medical attention if they are accompanied by swelling, dizziness, pain or cramps.
- Nail disorders. Brittle nails are common, but go to a doctor if you experience infections of the nail bed and cuticle or prolonged painful or inflamed fingernails or toenails.
- Breast pain. At any time, age and life stage, prolonged, intense and long-lasting (more than two months) breast pain should send you to the doctor, especially if they come together with lumps, nipple discharge, and other unusual symptoms.
- Tingling extremities. This can occur in menopause but also in diabetes, poor blood circulation, heart problems, stroke or cancer. If the tingling comes together with muscle weakness, seek immediate specialized attention.
- Dental issues. Bleeding and sore gums are common in menopause, but you should check with your dentist for other more severe dental issues such as infections or more severe dental problems.
Early or natural menopause also comes with symptoms like itchy skin, muscle tension, aching joints, osteoporosis signs, digestive problems, headaches, changes in body odor, burning tongue sensation, weight gain, fatigue, irritability and even panic attacks, dizziness and so on.
When should you go to the doctor? The main rule is to seek medical attention if some of the symptoms occur without being associated with others or if they persist for long periods of time.