Update: This post was originally written in 2010. It has been edited and updated to reflect the current position and opinions of The Perimenopause Blog in 2016
When I was in the midst of the worst of my perimenopause symptoms, I was convinced that I was going crazy. Yes, I had hot flashes, night sweats, irregular periods and those gawdawful mood-swings. But without question, the most compelling emotion I experienced during that time was the feeling that I was finally going nuts. In fact, it was my anxiety and emotional turmoil that drove me to begin blogging about perimenopause in the first place.
Like most women, I needed to talk through my anxiety and emotional angst so that I could sort through the feelings and make some sense out of what was happening to me. Perhaps that is what has brought you here as well. Maybe you’re feeling crazy too, vulnerable, not yourself, and hanging on by a very thin thread. So, before I go any further, let me say very plainly – I understand, and you are not going crazy.
It’s difficult to explain to others what perimenopause feels like. It’s especially difficult to explain to husbands who can’t begin to understand or even remotely connect to the female experience. Not only is this frustrating but it can add to the feelings of isolation and vulnerability.
The symptoms of perimenopause are long and varied. You may have many or you may have a few. But there is no typical perimenopausal experience, though most women seem to have hot flashes, night sweats, irregular periods and mood-swings. In fact, these four symptoms are usually what signals to women that they are in perimenopause.
As of right now, most experts, health care providers and those devoted to understanding and helping women in perimenopause agree there are at least 35 symptoms of perimenopause. It’s not necessarily a comprehensive list but it’s certainly a good starting point.
35 Symptoms of Perimenopause
- Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
- Irregular heart beat
- Mood swings, sudden tears
- Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
- Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
- Loss of libido
- Dry vagina
- Crashing fatigue
- Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
- Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
- Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
- Disturbing memory lapses
- Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence
- Itchy, crawly skin
- Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
- Increased tension in muscles
- Breast tenderness
- Headache change: increase or decrease
- Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
- Sudden bouts of bloat
- Exacerbation of existing conditions
- Increase in allergies
- Weight gain
- Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
- Dizziness, vertigo, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
- Changes in body odor
- Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
- Tingling in the extremities
- Gum problems, increased bleeding
- Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
- Osteoporosis (after several years)
- Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
- Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, ‘whooshing,’ buzzing etc.
What Treatment Options are Available?
Many women choose hormone therapy to help with the symptoms. I was not one of them during my own years of perimenopause, and frankly, it’s a decision that I’ve come to regret. Like a lot of women, I was concerned that if I used hormones it would cause more problems than it would help. So I made the decision to white knuckle my way through it. But I’ve learned a lot since then and if I could back and rethink that choice I would.
I am currently 5 years post-menopause and have been using both the Vivelle Dot Patch (a bioidentical estradiol) and Prometrium ( a bioidentical progesterone). Though it should be said that symptoms during actual menopause are quite different the symptoms of perimenopause. And that distinction is important.
If you decide you would like to use hormone therapy be sure and do your research on the difference between synthetic hormones and bioidentical hormones. I will tell you right now that there are medical professionals who will tell you that bioidentical hormones are nothing more than a marketing scam. But, I beg to differ.
Here is a link to a PDF file put out by Harvard School of Medicine which outlines the difference between synthetic hormones and bioidentical hormones. It’s a great reference sheet to have and to take with you when you see your physician.
Do Your Own Research and Educate Yourself
It’s very important that you take the time to do your own research and decide for yourself how you feel about hormone therapy. If, after you’ve done your research you still do not feel that hormone therapy is the best option for you, there are plenty of other ways to approach perimenopause as well. The point is, we do have options and there is no reason to suffer with perimenopause when we don’t have to.