Health issues can feel especially daunting when you’re a woman. From periods to giving birth to menopause, reproductive health may sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Nowhere is that truer than the mysterious era known as “perimenopause.”
Perimenopause literally means “around menopause.” It’s the transition stage in your reproductive life, running for a couple years to a whole decade in some cases, between your regular periods and the start of true menopause. And it can sneak up on you, with signs and symptoms often appearing before you even realize it’s coming.
Hot flashes, irregular periods and night sweats are some of the more well-known signs of perimenopause, but there are lots of others, some less common and some downright weird. Digestive issues, gum problems and even allergies can all signal that your body is entering perimenopause.
What’s a woman to do?
Prepare, of course. And the way to prepare is to know what’s coming so you can recognize what’s really going on. If you’ve been feeling off lately but can’t quite pin down what it might be, take heart: there may be a reason, and it’s definitely not all in your head.
Here are 7 surprising symptoms that might mean you’re going through perimenopause.
Disclaimer: the following is for information only and should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition, including perimenopause. Talk to your doctor if you have specific questions about your health.
Allergies can be a real nuisance, especially during the spring and summer months when pollen counts are high. But did you know that allergies can also indicate perimenopause? It’s true.
For some women, menopause-related symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes and runny noses can start to appear in the years leading up to menopause. Allergy symptoms may also become more frequent or intense during this time due to changing hormone levels.
For others, even existing allergies may seem to worsen during perimenopause.
So if you find yourself dealing with more allergy issues than usual lately, it could be a sign that your body is preparing for the transition into menopause.
#2) Dental problems
Taking care of your teeth and gums is important at any age, but if you’re heading into your late 30s and beyond, you’ll want to pay even closer attention to your oral health. That’s because the fluctuating hormones during perimenopause can impact your teeth and gums.
When levels of estrogen and progesterone start to change during this life stage, gum tissue can become more delicate, leading to increased risk for problems like sensitive teeth, dry mouth and altered taste. The best way to maintain healthy teeth and gums during this time is by having a regular checkup with a dentist and addressing potential problems quickly when they crop up.
Eating foods rich in calcium and practicing good oral hygiene habits are also important parts of keeping teeth safe as you go through the menopausal transition.
#3) Vision changes
If you’ve noticed dry eyes, blurriness or other vision changes lately, it might have something to do with perimenopause, too.
When your body is going through perimenopause, changes in hormones can also cause vision changes. For example, you might experience dry eyes, which can make it hard to focus on objects close up. This symptom can also cause difficulty with reading and other activities that require clear vision.
If you’re noticing any changes in your vision that seem out of the blue, get in touch with your eye doctor. You may need a prescription for stronger reading glasses, a new prescription altogether or some other kind of treatment. It might even be as simple as using eye drops. Lots of vision changes can be addressed the sooner you ask about them, so don’t suffer for no reason.
Characterized by ringing or buzzing in the ears, tinnitus is one of the lesser-known symptoms of perimenopause. As hormone levels fluctuate towards the end of your menstrual years, you might experience changes in your hearing that can lead to tinnitus. Researchers aren’t actually sure why this happens, or what exactly the connection between tinnitus and perimenopause is.
But it happens. And if it’s happening to you, make sure you tell your doctor.
The earlier you can address hearing problems, the better. This is especially important if you’re considering hormone replacement therapy for menopause or perimenopause symptoms. Hormone therapy might impact your hearing, too, so you’ll need to talk over your options with your doctor.
#5) Tummy troubles
Digestive issues are another common — but not talked about — side effect of perimenopause. And once again, you can thank your hormones for it. As hormone levels fluctuate during the menopausal transition, you might find yourself dealing with a range of digestive problems, including bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
These symptoms can be especially troublesome since they can disrupt your daily life and make it difficult to get the nutrition you need.
It’s not all diet, though. Other changes as you get older might account for digestive problems caused by — or exacerbated by — perimenopause. If you’re having trouble with gas, bloating, acid reflux or other stomach-related symptoms, see a GI doctor for help. They can rule out more serious causes and help you figure out a treatment plan.
#6) Tingling or numbness
Fingers or toes a little tingly or numb these days? It might be a sign that you’re getting closer to menopause. Tingling or numbness in your extremities, officially called “paresthesia,” can be a symptom of menopause and perimenopause. The likely culprit is estrogen.
Estrogen affects the central nervous system, so when there’s less of it in your body – as there is during this transition – your nerves can react to the change. This means numbness or tingling sensations in parts of your body like fingers, toes, arms and legs. Some women may even feel prickling in the face as well.
Paresthesia isn’t dangerous itself, as annoying as it might be. But it can lead to other problems, like balance or coordination issues due to the numbness.
To make matters worse, you might not even realize that this symptom could be related to perimenopause right away since it doesn’t always present itself until later stages.
There are ways to combat the feeling, like eating well and getting better sleep. But if the pins-and-needles feeling continues to disrupt your life or make day-to-day activities tougher, check in with your doctor for relief options.
#7) Electric shock sensations
As if the above symptoms of perimenopause weren’t weird enough, some women experience the phenomenon of electric shock sensations during the leadup phase to menopause. Yep, that’s right. Your body might send you little shocks as a reminder of your upcoming shift into menopause.
It’s not well documented and there’s almost no research about it, but it can happen. As with numbness and tingling, electric shocks during perimenopause likely come from issues related to the central nervous system. If you’re one of the unlucky ones who experiences this, consider holistic approaches to finding relief. And don’t forget to check in with your doctor, too.
These are just a handful of the surprising symptoms related to perimenopause. If you’ve been feeling off lately and think it could be due to changing hormones, just know that you’re not alone. And more importantly, there’s likely an answer — and relief! — available. Talk to your doctor about what might be going on and take steps today to make the transition into menopause a little less daunting.