During a recent interview for a television segment on menopause, I found myself in a bit of a quandary on what most women would identify as the most common symptom of menopause.
The interviewer said she was sure the most common symptom was “hot flashes”. She said she believed everyone would be able to identify hot flashes with menopause and hence hot flashes were the hallmark of menopause.
I had a hard time agreeing. Searching through my mind I came up with a litany of symptoms I hear every day and hot flashes, while up there in importance never quite are the definition of menopause to someone like me.
Thus I thought I should write a piece on the symptoms of menopause.
For me personally, night sweats and insomnia were the symptoms that made me take stock and admit that everything else I was complaining about was really part of menopause.
Not that I did not suffer with hot flashes, weight gain, loss of sex drive, itching, migraines, mood swings, anxiety and palpitations. It’s just that they were not the first symptoms that led me to making the connection between me and my menopause.
Today, more than 10 years into my specializing in menopause and hormones, as the doctor-girlfriend to my patients I must make the list a lot more comprehensive and logical so that even the most inveterate deniers can identify where they are without being hit over the head with stupid blood tests or antidepressants,
The most common symptoms of menopause are the following in no particular order and in no necessary sequence:
1. Hot Flashes
2. Night Sweats
4. Loss of sex drive
5. Weight gain or rarely loss (those are the women we all hate)
6. Redistribution of body fat to mostly around the waist and belly (yuch)
10. Vaginal Dryness
11. Recurrent urinary tract infections
12. Irritable bowel
14. Interstitial Cystitis
15. Allergies- new or increase sensitivity to old ones
17. Muscle and joint pains
20. Unexplainable rashes
21. Mood swings
22. Feeling disconnected from your pre menopausal life and interests
23. Unexplained crying jags
25. Desire to kill your husband just for breathing next to you
26. Desire to run away and give yourself one more chance to live life as you want to this time
27. Either increased fear of dying or a sense that you finally accept it
The list probably goes on forever but for the purpose of this column I will stop and let you digest these 27 points.
They all come from real women I take care of who want me to share them with you. The overriding reason for it is to understand that menopause is not definable by conventional medical terms. It cannot be diagnosed through a blood test or an x-ray. It is you the individual and most likely any symptom you are experiencing now that you have not experienced before is a symptom of menopause. It is not a diagnosis of exclusion. It is a real change that is caused by the loss of your hormones and the aging process advancing along with the hormone loss. However, menopause is not a disease and the symptoms need not be the preamble to a rapid decline into old age and chronic illness.
Take the symptoms and this time of your life seriously but do not get intimidated, scared or panicked by them.
Change your diet, increase your exercise regimen, deal with your stressors, improve the sleep you get, improve your relationships or discard those that rob you of positive energy. Decide to make the compromises that will improve your life and no longer compromise your self.
Take bioidentical hormones only if they fit you philosophically, emotionally and physically. And never let anyone, ever make you feel like there is something wrong with you just because you are in menopause!