It's been a journey, am I right? I think we all know that this is about more than hot flashes and a dry vagina. What I didn't know, is that there are SO many other symptoms, some of which I never connected to perimenopause. Here are my top five.
Listen. I've always been a sweater and I've always smelled after working out but this is a whole new level. My armpits are basically impervious to deodorant and I have tried them ALL.
Why is this happening? Supposedly it's the cause of our sweat. Unlike sweat resulting from hot temperatures or exercise, anxiety or stress sweat is different and apparently, we've got more anxiety in our perimenopausal years. No surprise there.
Sweat itself is odorless, but when it combines with bacteria on your skin things start to get smelly. Anxiety sweat is produced by the apocrine glands, found in your armpit and groin areas, and it’s a fatty sweat that bacteria love. I know. Gross.
What can you do? Always have wipes and deodorant with you so you can clean your pits and then re-apply. As if you don't already have enough sh*t in your purse.
I've always had a mild ringing in my ears, but dang! In the past year it's gotten to the point where I can't sleep without some kind of white noise.
Why is this happening? It’s not known exactly why women can experience tinnitus as part of their symptoms of perimenopause. You're welcome.
What can you do? The right dose of MHT (Menopause Hormone Therapy) can often improve tinnitus, as can reducing stress levels and relaxing. Also, listening to soft music or sound therapy - AKA white noise -to help take your mind off it.
3) Dry Eyes
I used to wear my contacts everyday, but now I find them unbearable and even when I'm not wearing them, I have to have drops with me at all times. Staring at a screen all day doesn't help either. Does any of this sound familiar?
Why is this happening? You guessed it. A drop in hormone levels. Sex hormones – estrogens and androgens – influence production of all components of the tear film including aqueous layer, lipid, and mucin. Various mechanisms such as a decrease in hormonal levels, shift feedback mechanisms, changing receptivity interplay and altering the ocular surface balance which can result in DED (Dry Eye Disease).
What can you do? Again, MHT is a great choice. Otherwise, eyedrops which you can put next to the wipes and deodorant already crowding your purse.
4) Brain Fog
What was I just writing? Oh' yeah. About 5 years ago I was at a gas station getting my car filled up (in Jersey you can't pump your own gas). The attendant took my credit card and asked me for my zip code. I couldn't remember it. Not one single number. I had to text my husband for it! I refer to these moments as "derping." So embarrassing.
Why is this happening? Scientists believe it has something to do with hormone changes. Estrogen, progesterone, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), and luteinizing hormone are all responsible for different processes in the body, including cognition.
What can you do? Firstly, make sure you're eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Secondly, make sure you're getting enough sleep and exercise. Thirdly, adapt - and by that I mean, make lists, set alarms and let the people around you know that this is a real thing you are dealing with. Lastly, give yourself GRACE. This is a tough one to manage. Be kind to yourself.
Where do I begin with this one? Just before the pandemic, I was sitting at my computer having a small melt-down because I sent a sensitive email to the wrong person (brain fog) and I was intently trying to figure out how to fix it. An executive, who I'm normally very friendly with, came into my office and asked a trivial question to which I replied, "Not now!" He continued to talk as my face got hot and red and I screamed, "NOT NOW!" In that moment, I didn't feel like I had the space to respond. Instead, I was all reaction. I apologized to the executive the next day.
Why is this happening? Perimenopause-induced rage may feel significantly different than your typical anger or frustration. If you've had this experience, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Estrogen affects the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a mood regulator and happiness booster. As your estrogen levels are declining over time, your estrogen-serotonin balance may be thrown off as levels slowly get lower.
What can you do? Yup. MHT can help. Also, identifying triggers so that you can create protocols for those moments. Relaxation techniques and meditation along with exercise can be incredibly helpful as well. However, if you do have a ragey moment (you will because nobody's perfect) apologize and explain the why to the recipient of your rage. People can be very understanding when they have all of the information. Then, forgive yourself and remember tomorrow is a new day.
If any of this resonates with you, tell me your stories! What tools do you use to manage these symptoms?