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The menopause: Everything is drying out…

Written by Fiona

April 29 2019

The list of menopause symptoms is vast. Before I started the process of ever-diminishing hormones I thought that the worst that I would face would be a few hot flushes and a year or so of irregular periods. I have been surprised by how many issues I have been bothered by.

Have a listen to the menopause in sport podcast for an insight.

Everything feels dried out

The drying out thing is not nice. First, I noticed that my hair did not get so greasy. That felt like a bit of a bonus but non-greasy has turned to dry as straw.

Then I noticed itchy skin. It happened on my arms at first and I didn’t realise I was subconsciously scratching my arms to shreds. My back also feels dry and the skin on my lower legs looks thin and papery at times. I use a lot more moisturiser than ever before.

My face skin is prone to being dry, after decades of normal-to-greasy skin. I notice the lines cross-crossing my skin if I neglect a good moisturising routine. Never before have I been so vigilant to sun damage, although I wish I had thought about this 20 years ago.

My skin feels dry and wrinkly…

My hands look old. I am sometimes shocked by how old my hands seem. The skin on the knuckles looks like reptile skin and if I pinch the back of my hand it does that thing that I remember doing to my nan. This is rather cruel now that I look back, but as kids we would sit on my nan’s lap and ooh and ah at how her skin on the back of her hands stayed pinched even after we had stopped pinching it! Now mine does that.

I have dry eyes as well and my mouth feels dry a lot of the time, regardless of how much water I drink. I had no idea that hormonal changes could cause such symptoms.

Then there is the dryness down below. No one really wants to dwell on that, nor a reducing libido, but let’s just say that sex can sometimes seem to be a far distant fantasy from everyday life.

My body feels as dry as a parched salt lake. Credit: Pedro Szekely

Dried out joints? WTAF?

Now the latest drying out issue appears to be in my joints. I had read about “menopause arthritis” and a general stiffening of joints, with accompanying pain and swelling. But it seems that joints can literally dry out, too.

There are thought to be a number of reasons why joins are affected through the menopause.

The hormone oestrogen has an important role in maintaining joint and bone health. It is not certain how it does this, but it is thought that it works by minimising swelling around the joint. A drop in oestrogen can result in swollen and painful joints.

Oestrogen also regulates fluid levels throughout the body, so just as our skin is drier and less elastic during the menopause, the tissue of the joints may be also be affected.

It could be, too, that a lack of fluid – or a dehydration – can cause joint pain because of a build up of uric acid, which can cause inflammation in the joints.

I have also been told by various medical experts that joints and ligaments can be less fluid during the menopause, like they are drying out.

Which could well explain why, for the first time in my life, my hips are really sore. One hip is so tight and sore that I feel unable to walk or run comfortably. My knees hurt when I walk down the stairs and my ankles are on-off painful.

I have advice from a physio and I am following a series of strength building exercises.

In addition, I attend a circuits class that helps to maintain and build muscles that appear to be diminishing by the week as I go through the menopause.

My worry is that even after the menopause the dryness and general functioning deterioration continues. I know that some women sail through the menopause and life continues pretty much as normal, but this is absolutely not my experience.

Have you had any dryness problems due to the menopause?

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