8 surprising menopause symptoms

Patsy Westcott / 21 September 2020

Most of us know the classic signs, such as flushes, sweats and insomnia, but the menopause can also bring a range of less familiar, unexpected problems.



Palpitations

Fast or irregular heartbeats are common and often linked to hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms.

Help yourself

  • Rest and breathe quietly for five minutes – they will usually subside.
  • Medication such as beta-blockers can help keep them at bay.
  • Alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate symptoms, so steer clear.
  • HRT may help some. Make an appointment to speak to your GP or specialist menopause clinic.

If you also experience dizziness, fainting, or tightness in the chest or neck, seek immediate medical help.

Palpitations can also be a symptom of Atrial Fibrillation, find out more

Joint aches and pains

Menopause is linked with the onset and progression of osteoarthritis (OA), possibly as a result of loss of oestrogen’s anti-inflammatory effect.

Help yourself

  • Try yoga, walking and muscle-strengthening exercises, such as squats and lunges, to attempt to stabilize joints.
  • A hot-water bottle or heat pack can increase mobility before exercise. A cold pack can reduce inflammation and swelling.
  • Ask your GP about medications. HRT may help ease symptoms and slow progression, although not recommended as first line treatment.

Aching joints – what’s the cause?

Skin problems

Skin often becomes dryer and more sensitive at menopause with bumps, pimples, itching (pruritus) and redness common complaints.

Help yourself

  • Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as herrings, salmon and fortified eggs.
  • Shower in warm water rather than bathing, and use gloves for washing up - hot water can be harsh and drying.
  • Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

Common skin problems in the over-50s – including pruritus

Hair loss

If your parting seems wider or you can see your scalp through your hair, you could have female pattern hair loss (FPHL), aka androgenic alopecia, caused by hormone imbalance, which is linked with menopause.

Help yourself

  • Go for a low glycaemic, high fibre diet containing protein and healthy fats as well as vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, C and B group vitamins as well as zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, selenium, calcium and silicon have all been found to be important. A Mediterranean diet would fit the bill perfectly.
  • Look out for shampoos, conditioners and other products for thinning hair.
  • Scalp massage may help.
  • See the doctor - several medications are available.

Help for thinning hair

Foggy brain

Difficulty finding words, forgetfulness and 'brain fog' are all features of menopause not helped by lack of sleep in the perimenopause (the lead up to periods ending). The reason? Studies show that oestrogen plays a role in cognitive function. The good news is that such problems often resolve with menopause itself.

Help yourself

  • Stress exacerbates a muddled brain - take regular breaks and give yourself wind-down time.
  • Make notes, use Post-its and your mobile to remind you of appointments and so on.
  • Studies suggest ginkgo biloba may help improve blood flow to the brain.
  • Again HRT may help if you want to and can take it.

Five ways to supercharge your memory

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Vertigo and dizziness

Research found that menopausal women are more prone to BPPV – benign paroxysmal positional vertigo – in which the world appears to be spinning when you look up or turn over in bed, due to fluctuating hormones.

Help yourself

  • Low levels of Vitamin D could be to blame. Check your levels at the surgery or get a self-test kit from the pharmacy.
  • The Epley manouevre, which involves turning the head in a specific way, can often help. Your doctor or a physio can do it and teach you how to do it yourself.
  • If simple self-help doesn’t work, see the doctor. Medications are available.

Dizziness: symptoms, causes and treatments

Irritable bowel syndrome

Symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, bowel discomfort and changes in bowel patterns together with diarrhoea and/or constipation – are more common as a result of the effects of fluctuating oestrogen and progesterone on pain ‘pathways’ in the gut and the brain.

Help yourself

  • Insoluble fibre (bran) found in wholemeal bread and cereals can exacerbate symptoms, so steer clear.
  • Soluble fibre, found in foods such as oats, pulses and linseeds can, by contrast, help, especially with bloating, so try to eat every day
  • Probiotics may help rebalance gut bacteria, which may be a factor in IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms

Burning mouth

Tender, tingling, hot, scalding, and numb sensations in the mouth are thought to be due to activation of pain-sensitive nerve cells surrounding the taste buds at the back of the tongue.

Help yourself

  • Steer clear of alcohol and products containing it, including mouthwashes. They can irritate the lining of your mouth.
  • Avoid spicy foods and acidic foods and drinks, such as tomatoes, orange juice, soft drinks and coffee.
  • Try mild or flavour-free toothpastes or ones for sensitive teeth.

Best treatments for menopause symptoms

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.