Perimenopause brings forth a range of different symptoms. Some of them we know about – hot flushes, irregular and heavier periods, mood changes etc. However, there are some less common and more unusual perimenopause symptoms that can turn up and really throw us a curve ball.
In this article we’re going to be looking at 10 unusual perimenopause symptoms and explain why we may experience them at this tricky time in our lives. That way, if you do get them, you’ll at least know what you’re dealing with!
1. Stinky Sweat
The perimenopausal years are notoriously sweaty. There’s the extreme hot flushes in the daytime and the sheet drenching night sweats at night time. Both of these are common symptoms that many women deal with on a daily basis. However, did you know that aside from producing more sweat, our sweat smells differently too?
Extra sweat means more opportunity for bacteria to flourish and this can result in changes to our bodily aroma. Plus, as oestrogen levels drop it can unsettle the hormonal balance. Women who notice they smell a bit stinkier than normal often have slightly higher testosterone levels (yes us women have this hormone too!), thrown out of whack because of the drop in oestrogen. Higher testosterone can cause more bacteria in sweat, hence why men tend to sweat more and smell more than women. An increase in bacteria is also a reason as to why perimenopauasal women may suddenly experience bouts of adult acne even if they’ve managed to go their whole lives so far avoiding it.
Interestingly, our sense of smell can also change during perimenopause. So, not only does our sweat stink way more than it used to, we can smell it way more too. If you’ve noticed a change in body odour make sure to shower every day, switch to a stronger deodorant, and wear clothes made from natural breathable fabrics.
2. Changes To Eyesight
If you’re noticing that your eyes feel drier than normal, that you’re blinking more, and that there’s a strange kind of scratchy sensation in your eyes, it could be one of those unusual perimenopause symptoms. We say ‘could be’ because of course you should always see your optometrist if you have any concerns with your eyes, as it may not be perimenopause related at all. However, those raging hormones can play havoc with our eyesight.
It is the job of the lacrimal glands in our eyes to keep them nice and moist and operating at their best. When perimenopause strikes and our hormone levels go haywire it can cause these glands to produce less fluid and this results in dry eyes. When our eyes are dry this can feel scratchy and over time may affect our vision. The shape of your eyes may also change during perimenopause and this along with the dryness can make contact lenses feel uncomfortable. If you are a contact lens wearer, speak to your optometrist about changing the type of lenses you wear, as some are better suited to dry eyes. You could also try using eye drops to help alleviate the dryness.
3. Hair Loss
The hormonal imbalance of perimenopause can cause some rather unwelcome things to happen to us, one of which is hair loss. And what you may also notice is that as fast as it’s falling out of your head, it seems to be sprouting out of places you really don’t want it to!
There are two main triggers for perimenopausal hair loss:
- Imbalance of oestrogen and testosterone – As oestrogen levels drop and testosterone becomes a more dominant hormone in the female body it can cause the body to lose hair. This is because androgens, such as testosterone, shrink hair follicles which results in hair falling out.
- Decrease in collagen – Collagen is essential for healthy skin, nails, bones, and hair. The human body does naturally produce collagen, however as we age the levels we produce drop and this happens most noticeably around the time we’re likely to be perimenopausal.
It’s important to point out that stress can also be a reason for hair loss, and perimenopause is definitely stressful. Try to reduce stress levels by doing activities like yoga, meditation, or mindful breathing exercises. And if you have any concerns about the rate that you are losing hair, make an appointment to see your GP.
A rather annoying and at times embarrassing symptom of the perimenopause that no one tells you about is that it can make you more clumsy. You could be the least clumsy person you know, but when perimenopause hits suddenly you might find yourself tripping over things, dropping things, or bashing into things, so what’s going on there then?
Well, there are lots of things going on. For example, those dry eyes we mentioned earlier… well they can cause blurred vision which can make you less capable of seeing as well and therefore bumping into things more easily. Perimenopause can also cause spells of dizziness and vertigo which can make you less spatially aware and more accident prone. You may also be struggling with sleep, which is another common perimenopause symptom, and as fatigue hits so too does your ability to function properly.
5. Taste Changes
This is one of the more unusual perimenopause symptoms, simply because people may not always connect the dots and recognise that this change is related to perimenopause. And yet again it’s those decreasing oestrogen levels that are to blame.
Oestrogen is in charge of a lot of different functions in the body and one of those functions is saliva production. As oestrogen levels decrease so too does our saliva production, which leads to a dry mouth and this affects how we taste things. Saliva is an essential component in us being able to taste, as it is the saliva that breaks down food into different chemicals that the taste buds can then translate into different flavours, for example salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. For some women less saliva can make certain flavours taste stronger, whereas others may find that they partially lose some of their taste. We may also experience a strange taste in our mouths even when we’re not eating, and this is again due to changes in saliva production.
But don’t worry, even if your favourite bar of chocolate isn’t tasting as good as it used to there are things that can be done, like exploring the various HRT options out there that can help alleviate perimenopause symptoms, even the unusual ones!
Some women experience a tingling, kind of like pins and needles in their hands and feet when they’re going through perimenopause. This sensation is caused by hormones affecting the central nervous system. Occasionally these tingles can feel more severe and move to other areas of the body. Sufferers may describe it as feeling as though they are getting mild electric shocks through their body. Whilst it doesn’t last very long, it can still be uncomfortable and slightly unnerving if you don’t know what’s happening to you.
It can also sometimes feel like burning on the skin, or as though something is crawling under the surface of the skin, or even a cold numbness. What form it takes will vary person to person and let’s remind ourselves that this is an unusual perimenopause symptom, but it is one nonetheless and should be taken seriously especially if it is affecting your ability to go about your usual daily life. If it is irritating you or if you have any concerns, speak to your GP or menopause specialist.
This one is a tricky one, because tinnitus often happens at around the same age as women go through the perimenopause, so it can be tricky to determine whether it is a perimenopause symptom or not. However, more and more women report issues with tinnitus that seem to relate to fluctuations in their hormone levels which would lead us to believe that there is indeed a connection.
Tinnitus is a rather annoying condition in which sufferers experience a ringing or buzzing in their ears. It can last for varying lengths of time, and in chronic cases can go on for 6-12 months, or in really extreme cases can be permanent. The reason that some people believe it is linked to perimenopause is that oestrogen plays a part in protecting the inner ear and when oestrogen levels drop this would naturally have an effect on the ear in some way. Stress is also a factor so finding ways to destress can help to alleviate the onset of tinnitus.
8. Dental Problems
Even if you brush and floss twice a day every day, when you enter your perimenopausal years all sorts of dental problems can emerge. As we are rapidly learning, oestrogen plays a key role in the functioning of the female body. In dental terms, oestrogen helps to regulate inflammation and so when levels drop we may notice gum inflammation, bleeding gums, gum disease, tooth pain, and may develop burning mouth syndrome (see next point).
To lessen the chances of experiencing dental problems during perimenopause you should visit your dentist and hygienist regularly, continue to brush and floss twice daily, drink plenty of water and if you smoke you should consider giving up.
And this leads us nicely onto the next one of our unusual perimenopause symptoms…
9. Burning Mouth
Burning mouth syndrome is a painful condition in which sufferers feel as though their mouth is burning or has been scalded. This sore and tender sensation can be felt in the mouth, lips, tongue and cheeks and can last for days at a time. It is a very uncommon condition, which is associated predominantly to post-menopausal women but can also start to appear during perimenopause. Like most other perimenopause symptoms, it is linked to the drop in oestrogen.
To ease the uncomfortable symptoms of burning mouth syndrome you should make sure to drink lots of fluids and avoid acidic foods such as tomatoes, fruit juice, and carbonated drinks, and steer clear of alcohol, as these will irritate the lining of your mouth and make it feel much worse. If it is really bad, you can try sucking on chips of ice to help cool down your mouth.
Hormonal changes that occur during perimenopause mean that women are more likely to experience migraines. Migraines differ from headaches, in that it is a more acute, throbbing pain and is often accompanied with flashing lights, sensitivity to light, nausea and sometimes vomiting. The hormonal migraines that perimenopausal women experience may also trigger episodes of dizziness and vertigo, making them feel disorientated and clumsy (see point 4 above).
As with any type of migraine, you can help to relieve symptoms by staying hydrated, eating regularly, managing stress, and resting. Some women prefer to sleep off the migraine if they can, or even just lying in a darkened room can help to ease the pain. You could try acupuncture for migraines or failing that you should visit your doctor to rule out any more serious issues and to be prescribed some medication that will help to deal with them.
There are so many different perimenopause symptoms and as research continues more symptoms are being linked to it. We must remember however, that not every woman will experience every symptom. Yes, there are certainly some symptoms that are more commonly experienced, but we cannot know to what extent we may experience them and indeed whether we will experience them at all. Unusual perimenopause symptoms are rare, but it’s important we talk about them so that those women who do suffer with them know that they are not alone, and that it is normal, and that there are places they can go to for help.