You’re feeling dizzy, your skin itches, when you wake up your body aches as if you’ve run a marathon and you can’t remember the name of a friend you’ve known for years. What’s going on?? You might suspect you’re going bonkers. But just maybe you’re the victim of what doctors call the atypical symptoms of perimenopause.
“I’ve never even had a hot flash!” you object, “how can this have anything to do with menopause?” But for women even as early as our thirties, the answer lies in understanding the difference between menopause and perimenopause.
Technically, menopause refers only to the moment when you reach twelve consecutive months without menstruating. The extended period prior to this milestone, often characterized by hot flashes, night sweats, and other stereotypical symptoms is really perimenopause. But perimenopause, and the hormonal fluctuations that crest as we approach menopause, can last as long as eight years, according to the North American Menopause Society. Other experts believe it can last even longer.
Why is this information all women should know? First, because if you believe you’re too young to even be thinking about menopause, you could be suffering unnecessarily when a simple hormonal tweak could have you back to normal. Additionally, if you experience symptoms not classically thought of as perimenopause-related, you may dismiss them individually, or spend valuable time trying to cure individual complaints without enlisting your doctor to look at the big picture.
And since some symptoms, like joint pain, could be mistaken for maladies like arthritis, there’s the possibility that you could end up being prescribed drugs with potentially dangerous side effects, when all that may be needed is to address your unbalanced hormones.
So what are some less well-known symptoms you should be on the lookout for?
- Itchy, crawly, or “electric shock” skin sensations
- Irritability, mood swings, even depression
- Bladder control issues
- Chronic or unexplained indigestion
- Memory problems, “brain fog,” or confusion
- Heart palpitations
- Painful or stiff muscles and/or joints
If you have any of these or other unexplained symptoms that seem to appear suddenly, a simple blood test can help you and your doctor discover if it’s related to falling hormone levels. It really could be just a matter of re-balancing your hormones to bring you back to feeling like yourself again.