Many are familiar with the typical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. But what about the more uncommon ones? Tingling in hands and feet, known as paresthesia, can be a symptom of menopause. Here are tips for how to monitor and treat it.
Menopause has some uncommon symptoms, such as paresthesia — numbness, tingling, or altered sensations, usually of hands and feet.
Paresthesia occurs due to changes in estrogen and other hormones in menopause. It can be reduced and managed with lifestyle changes or medications.
While mostly harmless, paresthesias should be evaluated as soon as possible by your healthcare provider if you have severe symptoms or other warning signs.
Menopause is the phase of a woman's life after she stops ovulating and therefore stops having menstrual periods. On average, this occurs between ages 45-55. Due to hormonal changes, several changes in the body happen, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, mood changes, weight gain, sleep issues, and brain fog.
Many women are familiar with the more common symptoms of menopause. However, there are also less common symptoms. One such symptom is paresthesia.
What is paresthesia?
Paresthesia refers to numbness, tingling, itching, burning, prickling, stinging, cold, crawling sensations, or increased or changed sensitivity in any area. It typically impacts the extremities of the body — the fingers, hands, arms, toes, feet, and legs.
Some describe it as a “pins and needles” sensation, such as the one you get when you sit in one position for too long and then move. You may feel pain or that your foot has “fallen asleep.”
They may come and go, or be present constantly. For some women, they are severe enough to wake them up while sleeping.
Paresthesia happens due to a change in the nervous system caused by declining estrogen levels in menopause. Sometimes it can resolve after estrogen levels have stabilized, but other times it may persist.
While paresthesia symptoms are often not more than just an annoyance, they can affect your life significantly depending on how severe they are.
They can affect your ability to hold or grip objects, do tasks that require finer coordination, such as writing or knitting, or even impact your ability to walk. You may end up losing your balance or falling.
Ways to treat paresthesia at home
There are many things you can do on your own to decrease these symptoms.
Your diet is very important for optimal functioning of your hormones. Because your hormones are made from fat, consuming enough healthy fat in your diet is critical. The best sources include fatty fish, avocado, olive oil, and other unsaturated fat sources.
Vitamin and mineral levels are also important. Vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium deficiencies can cause paresthesia, so make sure to get enough nutrients by eating lots of colorful vegetables and fruits.
Add beneficial bacteria in your diet and one way is using probiotics. However, you should consider several factors to choose the best probiotics for menopause to effectively treat symptoms.
Limit refined carbohydrates, sugar, and other sources of “empty” calories without much nutritional value. You may also take vitamin/mineral supplements, but they are not as beneficial as getting them from real food sources.
Exercise improves blood circulation and heart functioning, which can help alleviate paresthesia. It can also lower stress, which can worsen paresthesia. Stretching and yoga help circulation and may relieve compressed nerves, while aerobic exercise strengthens the heart's pumping capacity and functioning.
Getting adequate each night helps keep stress levels down and the body functioning at an optimal level. Sleep deprivation can throw off hormone balance, so make sure to try to get at least 8 hours each night.
Drinking enough fluids maintains your blood volume and allows for better blood circulation. Make sure to drink at least 8 cups of fluids each day and even more if you exercise or drink caffeine, which dehydrates you because it causes you to urinate more than the amount you took in. For every cup of coffee or tea you have, drink an extra cup of water.
Build healthy habits
Firstly, avoid caffeine and alcohol. In addition to causing dehydration, these substances affect your circulation and nervous system directly as well. Also, stop smoking, since nicotine is terrible for blood vessels and circulation. Cut down or quit if you can. Finally, it's essential to reduce stress. Relaxation, meditation, aromatherapy, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness practices can regulate stress and improve circulation.
Alarming symptoms – when to see your doctor
You should be continuing your regular checkups with your doctor annually, if not more frequently, depending on your other health conditions.
After menopause, it is good to have a conversation with your healthcare provider on how you want to manage the symptoms, whether solely through lifestyle changes or by using medications.
There are many other possible causes of paresthesia other than menopause, such as diabetes, stroke, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases, so please do see your doctor if you are having these symptoms, especially if they are more than just mild in severity or if they are combined with other alarming symptoms such as:
- Muscle weakness
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms or movements
- Severe pain
- Difficulty walking
- Trouble talking, such as slurring
- Memory loss
- Losses in consciousness, periods of fainting, or blacking out
- Numbness of a large region or even half of the body
- Difficulty controlling your bladder or bowel
- Changes in your vision
- Overall worsening of your symptoms
Treatment options with your doctor
If lifestyle changes are not enough to control your symptoms to a tolerable level, your doctor can offer you medications that can affect the nervous system or hormone replacement therapy. This can come in the form of pills, ointments, creams, rings, or suppositories and treatment lengths vary. Discuss specific options, risks and benefits, with your healthcare provider.
You may also consider other services such as acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, occupational therapy, hypnosis, biofeedback, or therapy. These may decrease stress and/or improve circulation and mobility.
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