While most women are familiar with the common menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, many are unaware of menopausal effects on the skin. Itchy skin is experience by many women during the menopausal transition. Skin problems during menopause are closely linked with hormonal changes characteristic of this natural period of change.
Skin changes can begin as early as perimenopause, or the time leading up to the cessation of menstrual periods, which can range from three to ten years. Other women may experience skin changes after menopause.
Women who begin to experience dry or itchy skin during menopause are smart to take the time to learn more about this symptom, its causes, and its treatment.
Itchy skin during menopause?
Menopause can often trigger skin changes leading to itchy skin. Itchy skin, medically known as pruritis, can be a major life disruption, especially if it causes significant discomfort and/ or disrupts sleep.
Related to pruritis, paresthesia can also afflict women during the menopausal transition. An abnormal skin condition affecting touch sensation, paresthesia is defined as sensations of numbness, “pins and needles”, tingling, and/or pricking of the skin.
A small percentage of menopausal women report itchy skin symptoms of formication, a specific type of paresthesia, characterized by creepy, crawling sensations on the skin. People with formication have the phantom sensation of ants or other insects crawling on their skin.
What causes itchy skin during menopause?
During menopause, the most common underlying cause of itchy skin is hormonal change. As the body prepares for the cessation of menstruation and egg development during perimenopause, levels of estrogen in the body also fluctuate and eventually begin a steady decline.
Estrogen plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. For example, estrogen is responsible for stimulating the production of skin collagen, a fibrous protein that provides strength, resilience, and support to the skin and other tissues.
As estrogen production diminishes around the time of menopause, dry itchy skin becomes a very common symptom. The decline in skin thickness and collagen production appears to be most rapid in the years immediately proceeding menopause.
Lowered estrogen levels also decrease the body’s ability to retain moisture and slow down the body’s production of natural skin oils, which also contributes to itchy skin.
Other rare causes of itchy skin
While hormonal changes are the most common cause of itchy skin around the time of menopause, other medical conditions can be responsible for itchy skin. While these are rare causes, they are important to be aware of, particularly in cases where itchy skin is accompanied by other unexplained symptoms.
Women concerned about the causes of itchy skin and those who experience other worrisome symptoms are advised to speak with a qualified dermatologist or other medical professional. Fortunately, itchy skin in menopause can often be successfully managed with self care and natural treatments