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  5. Menopause Itching: The Link, Types, Treatments & Prevention Tips

Women experience a variety of symptoms during menopause. From hot flashes to mood swings, vaginal dryness and itchy skin. The fluctuating hormone levels are the cause for the latter, which can range from mild itching to severe.

If your skin is itching and you are going through menopause, there are ways to tackle it. From home remedies to medical options, we tell you all you need to know about itchy skin during menopause and how to treat it.

What Is Menopause Itching?

One of the changes a woman’s body undergoes during menopause is the loss of the hormone oestrogen. It is needed by the skin to produce natural oils and collagen that keep the skin firm. With reduced collagen and oil levels, menopause brings with it dry and itchy skin or pruritus [1].

While your skin becomes dry and itchy all over your body, the more common areas where you might experience itching during menopause are your face (the T zone), back, neck, chest, armpits, elbows, your scalp, the area around the ears; and arms and legs.

The problems in the skin related to hormonal changes during menopause are known as dermatosis [2].

Types Of Menopause Itching

1. Contact Dermatitis

As your skin gets drier and itchy, it could react to chemical-laden soaps, shampoos and washes. The irritation caused by these can cause further itching.

2. Paresthesia

During menopause, some women may feel their toes and fingers going numb; or have a tingling sensation. This is known as paresthesia [3].

You may also feel a pricking cramp that occurs after sitting in one position for long.

Another rare form of paresthesia experienced during menopause is the feeling of insects crawling on one’s skin. This is known as formication [4].

Itching can be mild in some parts of the body, and severe in others; or uniform all over. At times the itching can be extreme enough to need medical attention and affect everyday life. Consult a doctor to ensure you don’t have any other infection that is causing the itching.

Dry skin during menopause can also have symptoms such as a rash, redness and bumpy skin. It is best to consult a doctor to ensure these symptoms are not related to any other ailment or skin problem.

3. Genital Itching

Vaginal itching [5] can occur or worsen, if it already existed during your menopause. Women who frequently experience vaginal dryness are more prone to this kind of itching. It is known as vulvar pruritus. It can also cause a burning sensation along with itching.

Vaginal itching is caused due to the lowered oestrogen levels, which further dry out the vaginal tissues, making the skin there thinner. This condition is called vaginal atrophy [6] and is symptomised by an itchy or painful vagina.

Vaginal itching during menopause can also be caused due to sensitivity or irritation to chemicals in soaps; and in rare cases, due to vaginal or cervical cancer or inflammation of any kind. Thus, a trip to your gynaecologist is recommended.

How To Get Rid Of Menopause Itching?

1. Home Remedies

A. Use A Moisturiser

One of the best remedies is to moisturise your skin, which will prevent dryness and itchiness. Use a moisturiser that is rich in emollients and can penetrate deep into the skin. You can also use aloe vera gel or a calamine lotion.

B. Have An Oatmeal Bath

Oatmeal, which is made by grinding oats to a fine powder, is an effective remedy. Already used in several chemical free skin and bath care products, you can shower with a product that contains oatmeal. It helps to relieve the itching.

C. Vitamin C

Increase your intake of vitamin C [7], which helps to undo the damage caused to the skin. It promotes the production of collagen and may even help in protecting the skin from getting drier or thinner.

You can include vitamin C in your diet through the intake of citrus fruits; or orally as a supplement. There are several skincare creams for dry skin, which you can apply that have vitamin C as an ingredient.

D. Herbal Supplements

While herbal supplements shouldn’t be taken without a doctor’s advice, there are a few which help the body to produce hormones naturally. These may have an effect if you are on some prescribed medication. So they are best taken after consulting a doctor.

Soy extract and a cream containing Neem can help in easing the symptoms of menopause itching.

2. Medical Treatments

A. Steroidal Creams

Based on your condition, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids for topical use if the skin is very itchy or if there is inflammation.

The corticosteroids usually prescribed contain hydrocortisone [8] or other steroids and are available as sprays, lotions and gels. If the problem is not so severe, an OTC cream to treat the itching may be prescribed. These contain a small quantity of hydrocortisone.

B. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

One of the most popular medical treatment protocols for menopause is HRT [9]. It treats itchy skin as well because the increased hormones restore collagen and natural oil production.

However, HRT has side effects and risks attached.

Side effects of HRT include bloating, incontinence, change in skin colour, vaginal bleeding and painful breasts [10]. It increases your risk of gallstones, heart disease and breast cancer [11] and also cancer of the uterus.

Did You Know?

  • Atrophic vaginitis is another term to describe vaginal atrophy.
  • Women with a family history may develop cancer after menopause. Vaginal bleeding or any discharge post menopause should not be neglected.
  • Intercourse becomes more painful if you have vaginal atrophy.
  • Pigmentation, rash, acne and wrinkles may also occur during menopause. Other symptoms of menopause may include night sweats, moodiness and hot flashes.
  • The HRT treatment combining hormones progesterone and oestrogen increases your risk of breast cancer by approximiately 75% even if you don’t follow the treatment for a long time.

Tips To Prevent Itching During Menopause

  • Drink lots of water so that your skin gets the hydration it needs.
  • Supplements like Evening Primrose Oil [12] are known to help ease the symptoms.
  • Topical products containing Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) and collagen peptides [13] can help.
  • Ensure you get adequate sleep -- at least 7-8 hours.
  • Use sunscreen every time you step out to prevent sun damage, which can further dry out your skin.
  • Avoid smoking and the consumption of alcohol, both of which dry the skin further.
  • Maintain a balanced diet with more natural foods and less processed foods. A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids [14] can help reduce dryness.
  • Exercise regularly. Yoga helps to reduce the symptoms of menopause and can also regularise your hormone levels.
  • Maintain a stress-free lifestyle.
  • Use products that are free of strong fragrances.
  • Try and shower in lukewarm water or cold water. Hot water depletes the natural oils and moisture present in the skin.
  • Apply a good moisturiser immediately after bathing to prevent the skin from drying out. Use a mild soap or cleanser as much as possible.
  • Because your skin could be itchy all over your body, the temptation to scratch where it itches is strong. Try and not scratch as it can aggravate the skin further. Cut your nails and keep them short, so that even if you inadvertently scratch in your sleep, you don’t harm the skin.

Wrapping Up

Most women experience dry and itchy skin during menopause. While there is no telling which part of your body might be itching more, there are ways to treat and prevent drying of the skin and itching. A healthy lifestyle and some preventive measures can help.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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