You’ve tried to muddle through the hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, and changes to your body on your own. After all, you knew you’d go through menopause someday. You hope you’ll get a break eventually, but in the meantime, you feel like menopause is making you crazy.

Let’s set the record straight. Yes, if you menstruate, you’ll go through menopause. But you don’t have to suffer through it without help. You can work with your doctor to create a plan to manage menopause symptoms, so you can go back to enjoying your life (and get some much-needed sleep).

How Do You Know It’s Menopause?

Everyone goes through menopause differently, but for most people, it starts between age 45 and 55. You might notice some of the most common symptoms first, like:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Urinary changes
  • Memory issues
  • Headaches or body aches
  • Irregular periods or changes in flow

The list goes on, and any of these symptoms can interfere with your day-to-day enough to cause problems. There’s no shame in seeking help for them.

Is It Worth a Trip to the Doctor?

Here’s the thing: Everyone has a different tolerance when it comes to symptoms. Losing your libido might cause you stress over intimacy with your partner while someone else hardly notices their sex drive dwindling. Some people can actually sleep through the night without waking up sweating during menopause.

But you might notice night sweats waking you up every night—even multiple times a night. Or you might have less common menopause symptoms. Or your personal cocktail of symptoms might make you feel unwell more often than not. Any of these and more are worth talking to your doctor about. If your symptoms cause you stress, it’s a good idea to ask about your options.

What Do Severe Menopause Symptoms Feel Like?

If your symptoms interfere with your daily life and get in the way of your ability to function as you normally would, you might be dealing with more extreme symptoms. Severe menopause can feel like:

  • Being unable to sleep well most nights due to hot flashes
  • Having trouble concentrating daily due to brain fog
  • Consistent low mood, depression, or anxiety
  • Having to urinate frequently or experiencing incontinence
  • Feeling uncomfortable in your body or having gender dysphoria due to your symptoms

Knowing and expecting your symptoms doesn’t necessarily make them easier to deal with. Typical symptoms can still make your body feel out of control, and having extra support can bring you back into balance.

How Do You Know if Your Menopause Symptoms Are Unusual?

Menopause rarely looks like a tidy list of symptoms. Sometimes, you’ll experience things that you’ve never heard of being related to menopause. These hormonal changes can make your ears itch, your fingers tingle, and your hair thin. Plus, while most people know about hot flashes, you can get chills, too.

As your hormones adjust, it can affect your whole body. Many of these unusual menopause symptoms aren’t anything to worry about, but there’s still plenty you can do to feel more comfortable.

How Can a Doctor Help You?

Your doctor should make treatment recommendations based on what symptoms are impacting you most and your personal health needs. If you’re on medication, they should consider whether it will interact with a possible treatment. It may take some trial and error to find the best menopause treatment for you, but here are a few options to discuss with your provider:

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Usually, your doctor will recommend estrogen therapy or estrogen progesterone therapy, if HRT is on the table. Both treatments come in many forms, including a pill, patch, cream, gel, or ring. Estrogen therapy is usually for people who no longer have a uterus, and you should ask your doctor about the potential risks of hormone therapy before you try it.
  • Medications: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can help with mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Some people find gabapentin, a medication typically used to control seizures and nerve pain, useful for dealing with hot flashes. You can also use vaginal creams for dryness.
  • Diet changes: Some foods can relieve menopause symptoms, including calcium-rich foods like spinach, milk, yogurt, and leafy greens. Lean protein, like turkey, fish, and tofu, can keep up your bone and muscle health, and soy has phytoestrogens that may help you boost your estrogen levels.
  • Light exercise: Regular movement can help you sleep and improve your mood. If you’re worried about overheating from your workout when you’re already sweating from hot flashes, try less strenuous exercise like yoga or walking.
  • Therapy or support groups: Talking about your experience with menopause can benefit you by giving you someone who understands what you’re going through. It can make you feel less alone as you go through all the changes that come with menopause.

Not all of these treatments will work for everyone, so talking with your doctor can narrow down the best options for you. Some people benefit from a combination of these, and even a small change can make a big difference in how you feel.

How Do You Prepare to Talk to Your Doctor About Menopause?

Before you go to the doctor, make a list of symptoms, questions, and concerns you have. Pinpoint the ones that bother you the most, so you can discuss those first and make sure your doctor understands what to focus on. It may also help to track your symptoms with an app like balance or MenoLife.

When you keep track of your symptoms, it gives your doctor all the information they need to recommend the best treatment for you. Prepare to advocate for your care so you can bring up any concerns with confidence. Your health is worth it, and being honest, thorough, and clear with your doctor means you can partner with them more effectively to find what helps you.

The Bottom Line: You Know Yourself Best

There’s no one metric for when your symptoms are “bad enough” to seek care. But if you’re worried or have questions, it’s already time to talk to your doctor. Your health matters, so if your menopause symptoms are causing you problems, you deserve to get care that makes you more comfortable as your body changes.

Full Disclosure

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About The Author

Eli Wood (he/they) is a queer and genderqueer content writer and content strategist. He writes about sexual health and wellness and works to help people feel more comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics, especially within the LGBTQIA+ community. They also create strategic, LGBTQIA+ inclusive content and craft content strategies to help businesses reach their ideal audiences. You can find more of his work on their website.

 

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