How to Handle 6 Uncommon Menopausal Symptoms

If you're a woman between 45 and 55, chances are you know all too well the most common symptoms of menopause: hot flashes, forgetfulness, night sweats, and insomnia.

But menopause can also bring on other less common symptoms, says Jill Rabin, MD, chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics, and gynecology, and head of urogynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY.

"Estrogen is present in 350 areas of the body," Rabin says. "So symptoms can appear in any of these sites."

Some to watch out for include:

1. Cracks in the sides of the nail beds in the fingers and toes. "This can be the result of low estrogen during menopause," Rabin says. Stress reduction can help. Consider trying yoga—in addition, eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids.

2. Dry skin. Again, you can thank lowered estrogen levels for this. To combat dry, flaky skin, apply moisturizer daily, and remember that thicker, greasier moisturizers will be much more soothing.

3. Bladder infections. "During menopause, the skin around the vagina gets thin, and bacteria can enter more easily," Rabin says. If you are prone to bladder infections, it may be a good idea to shower rather than to bathe. "Twice daily with gentle soap is helpful," Rabin says. Once a day, drink a glass of cranberry juice (or take a cranberry extract). And consider using one of the vaginal probiotic gels that are sold over the counter. These will help repopulate the vagina with "good" bacteria, called lactobacillus.

4. Thinning hair. "Women in menopause may develop a deficiency in biotin, which affects hair," Rabin explains. "Dermatologists are really touting biotin as a way to help your hair grow back, so you might consider trying this." At the very least, use a shampoo and conditioner specially formulated for thinning hair.

5. Anxiety and depression. These feelings can be caused not just by the lack of estrogen, but by the stresses brought on by everything else going on, such as dealing with elderly parents as well as children who are becoming teenagers. "We are the sandwich generation, and stress and anxiety can be the result of real life stresses," Rabin says. "It's important to get the whole health picture by having a complete physical." If your physical reveals nothing out of the ordinary, your doctor may recommend stress reduction techniques such as talk therapy, she explains.

6. Vaginal odor. "This is very common when you lose estrogen and the pH of the vagina goes up," Rabin says. To alleviate this symptom, Rabin recommends taking a probiotic daily by mouth or using a vaginal probiotic three times a week. This beats using a vaginal spray or powder, since these just mask odor and can even lead to infection.

Whatever menopausal symptoms you might experience, you can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis and heart disease by making certain lifestyle changes. Here's what the National Institutes of Health recommends:

  • Don't smoke
  • Eat a low-fat diet
  • Take calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • Exercise regularly

If you develop early signs of bone loss or if osteoporosis runs in your family, discuss this with your doctor. Certain medications can help delay further weakening of the bones.

Dr. Jill Rabin reviewed this article.




Menopause. MedlinePlus. National Institutes of Health.