About Menopause Symptoms

By Menopause Now Editorial Team | Updated: Apr 25, 2019


For a majority of women, the transition from reproductive years to menopause and beyond brings about physical changes, emotional challenges, and other sensations known as menopause symptoms. Some normal menopause symptoms include physical changes and disturbances, such as irregular periods and hot flashes. Emotional menopause symptoms-compounded by stress, major life changes, and other factors-can range from mild irritation and mood swings to depression and anxiety.

How a woman experiences menopause symptoms depends on a number of factors, including genetics, personal expectations, personal lifestyle, culture, and whether menopause is natural or induced. The 34 menopause symptoms covered here are the most common, though the range is enormous. Of the 34 menopause symptoms, some are more likely in the years before periods stop and others are more likely after menopause. Early menopause can also prompt a different experience.

What are the menopause symptoms?

Menopause symptoms are changes in feelings, sensations, and physical function during the span of time from perimenopause to postmenopause, which most commonly occurs in a woman's 30s to 50s.

The following is a list of the 34 menopause symptoms most commonly experienced during this transition.

34 Menopause Symptoms

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Bloating
  • Breast Pain
  • Burning Tongue
  • Depression
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Digestive Problems
  • Dizziness
  • Electric Shocks
  • Fatigue
  • Fingernail changes
  • Gum Problems
  • Hair Loss
  • Hot Flashes
  • Incontinence
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Irregular Periods
  • Irritability
  • Itchy skin
  • Joint Pain
  • Loss of Libido
  • Memory Lapses
  • Migraines
  • Mood Swings
  • Muscle Tension
  • Night Sweats
  • Odor Changes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Panic Disorder
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Tingling extremities
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Weight Gain

Read on to learn more about when these menopause symptoms most commonly begin during the major transition between the reproductive and non-reproductive years.

Stages of Menopause Symptoms

The onset of menopause symptoms often depends on which stage of menopause a woman is entering. This is because the underlying hormonal changes that cause menopause symptoms are different in the years leading to menopause, compared to the years following cessation of menses.

Perimenopause symptoms

Women often begin to experience menopause symptoms before their periods stop. The time leading up to menopause is known as perimenopause (literally meaning “around menopause”) and usually begins in the mid to late 40s.

Symptom Severity

In one large study, only 3 to 16 percent of women rated menopause symptoms as “really bothersome”.

The duration of perimenopause can vary from a few months to nearly a decade, though the average length is 3.5 years. For about 90 percent of all middle aged women, menopause symptoms begin during perimenopause. Early menopause symptoms commonly include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disorders,irregular periods, mood swings, memory problems, and more. These are normal symptoms during perimenopause.

During perimenopause, ovarian hormonal levels, particularly estrogen, fluctuate greatly as the body prepares to cease egg development and menstruation. Menopause symptoms during this time are often short-lived but more troublesome than menopause symptoms experienced after the end of menstruation.

Natural Menopause Symptoms

Irregular periods asking

Natural, or spontaneous, menopause is the permanent end of menstruation. Natural menopause often occurs between the ages of 40 and 58, though the average age of menopause is 51 in the West. At least two factors influence the timing of menopause: genetics and smoking.

Did You Know?

  • Most women will reach menopause around the same time as their moms and sisters.
  • Smokers reach menopause 2 years sooner than non-smokers.

Women are said to have gone through menopause when they have not had a period for a full 12 months.

Menopause is actually a brief moment in time when the body stops menstruating, though the term is often used to refer to this entire transitional time. Thus, the term “menopause symptoms” is actually used to refer to all the symptoms that can occur during the span of this transition.

Premature Menopause Symptoms

Whether natural or induced, premature menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of periods at or before the age of 40. Premature menopause symptoms will depend on whether a woman is entering menopause naturally or because of medical intervention. Irregular periods are often the first premature menopause symptoms that a woman will develop.

Women who go through premature menopause are at a higher risk of certain health problems later in life, including osteoporosis and heart disease. Premature menopause symptoms may also include the psychological impact of early menopause, which may consist of depression and anxiety.

Medical tests can help to determine if a woman is experiencing premature menopause symptoms. Read on to learn about natural early menopause and medically or surgically induced menopause.

Early Menopause Symptoms

Though most women will reach natural menopause in their early 50s, some women begin to experience early menopause symptoms as young as 30. Undoubtedly, this can be an alarming experience for a woman who doesn't expect to reach this transition for another 10 to 20 years.

While the exact cause of early menopause remains unclear, experts say that the following factors can increase the likelihood that a woman will develop early menopause symptoms and cease menstruating sooner than the average woman:

Risk factors for early menopause:

  • History of heart disease
  • Medical treatment for depression
  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • Previous pelvic surgery
  • Epilepsy treatment
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Chemotherapy or radiation (see below)

NO clear correlation has been found between early menopause and:

  • Race
  • Age of first period
  • Use of birth control pills

Women who go through early menopause are likely to experience the same menopause symptoms that any woman would upon entering perimenopause, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and more. Read on to learn about induced menopause, which is a special case of premature menopause.

Induced Menopause Symptoms

Induced menopause symptoms will develop around the time a woman undergoes medical or surgical procedures that prompt the body into menopause. This can occur at any age.

Types of Induced Menopause:

Surgical menopause occurs when both ovaries are taken out because of cancer or high cancer risk, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or infection.

Medical menopause, caused by chemotherapy and radiation (common cancer treatments), can produce early menopause symptoms. Certain types of chemotherapy can also produce symptoms similar to those of menopause, including nausea, hair loss, weight gain, and fatigue.

Whether natural or induced, premature menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of periods at or before the age of 40. Premature menopause symptoms will depend on whether a woman is entering menopause naturally or because of medical intervention. Irregular periods are often the first premature menopause symptoms that a woman will develop.

Women who have surgical or medical menopause do not pass through the perimenopausal transition. Instead, hormonal changes occur all at once after surgery or other medical intervention. This increases the likelihood that induced menopause symptoms will be more severe, compared to those of natural menopause. Induced menopause symptoms can include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and loss of libido, often, though not always, experienced intensely. The emotional impact of induced menopause can also produce mood-related menopause symptoms including depression and anxiety.

Postmenopause Symptoms

Postmenopause is the time after the complete cessation of menstrual periods.

Did You Know?

Today, at least one-third of most North American women's lives are spent in post menopause.

During this time, some women still experience menopause symptoms. While these menopause symptoms are often less troubling, they may be longer lasting because the body is responding to life at permanently changed hormone levels. Of the 34 menopause symptoms that can occur at any point in this span of transformation, vaginal dryness, weight gain, loss of libido, and incontinence are most common postmenopause symptoms.

Menopausal Health

irregular periods treatments with drugs

It is also important to be aware of other physical changes that can occur in addition to menopausal symptoms during this life transition. The natural aging process and the effects of permanently diminished levels of estrogen can increase a woman's risk for heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, endometrial cancer, and thyroid problems. All of these conditions can produce symptoms similar to menopause symptoms. Women are encouraged to speak with their health care professional about health risks in the golden years.

Now that the different stages of menopause and menopause symptoms have been explored, the next important step is to understand more about the causes of menopause symptoms. Read on to learn more about menopause symptom causes.

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