If you ever get a weird tingling, crawling, numbness, or itching in your extremities – hands, feet, arms, legs – it might just be menopause.
We all know the pins-and-needles feeling of realizing you’ve been in one position too long and your foot fell asleep, or of toes warming up after an afternoon of sledding. But when the burning or tingling all over your body happens for none of the usual reasons, it can be a little alarming.
Fear not. It’s called paresthesia, it’s not uncommon, and it usually stops when estrogen levels stabilize. Knowing that doesn’t make it any less annoying, so we’re going to talk about what it is and how to get rid of it for our Symptom of the Month.
Menopause and nerves have a complicated relationship. Surprise – declining estrogen levels may be the culprit. Because estrogen levels impact our central nervous system, when those levels start to fluctuate, some of the nerves are impacted.
The sensations can take a lot of forms: tingling, burning, crawling skin, cold, numbness, the classic pins-and-needles, and increased sensitivity. Women report symptoms from intermittent and mild to lasting and painful, even to the point of waking them from sleep.
This is most likely due to essentially the same cause, but with a different outcome. Most women report menopausal paresthesia of the hands, but it's not uncommon to experience the same effects in the face. It can be particularly unpleasant, and can cause serious questions about your overall state. If your facial paresthesia is caused by the same declining estrogen levels, then the same treatments and remedies can theoretically be just as effective, which we'll get to shortly.
Paresthesia due to hormone fluctuation isn’t dangerous on its own, although numbness in the feet can cause women to lose their balance and fall when walking or running. Some women report the numbness or other sensation can make it temporarily difficult to grip or do fine finger movements.
When suffering a bout of paresthesia, it’s important to pay attention to how your body may be affected and adapt to any reduced ability. This can also lead to increased menopausal anxiety, so it's important to pay close attention without stressing over it too much, or you'll be doing more harm than good.
And of course, if you're concerned about the severity of your symptoms, or if the tingling is disrupting your life, work, or hobbies, describe your symptoms to a doctor. If you can find a doctor who is particularly experienced with menopause symptoms and treatments, even better.
As usual, there are lifestyle changes to try first:
If none of these make the paresthesia manageable, or if it’s impacting your sleep or quality of life, talk to a doctor about medical interventions like hormone replacement, topical creams, or a low-dose antidepressant medication for menopause symptom treatment. While paresthesia related to menopause is considered “chronic” (long lasting or recurring), there are ways to moderate the sensations until estrogen levels reach their new normal and sensations reduce or disappear.
Tingling and burning sensations can be caused by more dangerous conditions such as fibromyalgia or stroke, so if you have any of the following as well as the paresthesia, talk to your doc:
Paresthesia may not be pleasant and it might distract you when it strikes, but it generally isn't considered painful. The more severe, sometimes more painful version is called dysesthesia and may be related to multiple sclerosis. If your tingling is painful, talk to a doctor right away.
The information on the Gennev site is never meant to replace the care of a qualified medical professional. Hormonal shifts throughout menopause can prompt a lot of changes in your body, and simply assuming something is “just menopause” can leave you vulnerable to other possible causes. Always consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of Gennev's telemedicine doctors before beginning any new treatment or therapy