Women usually experienceÂ menopauseÂ around their fifties.Â MenopauseÂ can cause a whole variety of bodily changes mainly driven by changes in hormones. In fact, these hormonal changes begin even duringÂ perimenopause, which is 8-10 years beforeÂ menopause, but theÂ symptomsÂ are more pronounced duringÂ menopause.
One suchÂ symptomÂ isÂ itchyÂ skin, medically known as pruritus (1). This condition can occur in different parts of the body. While there are home remedies and medications that can help treat it, there are also certain habits you can develop to prevent or control it. Keep reading to learn all about menopause itching and how to prevent it.
In This Article
What Causes Itching During Menopause?
The body goes through many hormonal changes during menopause. One such hormonal change is the decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen is vital for a number of functions, including skin health. It helps the body retain its natural moisture.
It helps wounds heal and improves barrier function â that is, it strengthens the outermost later ofÂ skinÂ and keeps it healthy (2). It also aids the body in producing natural oils and collagen. Natural oils keep theÂ skinÂ hydrated. Collagen and elastin (skin proteins) keep theÂ skinÂ firm and elastic (3).
Thus, estrogen is indirectly responsible for keeping yourÂ skinÂ strong, hydrated, and tight. When these estrogen levels drop, yourÂ skinÂ becomes thinner, drier, andÂ itchy.
Menopause itching is of different types. Check them out in the following section.
What Are The Types Of Menopause Itching?
BesidesÂ dryÂ andÂ itchyÂ skin,Â menopauseÂ can also causeÂ skinÂ rashesÂ and acne. You might experience hyperpigmentation, which is a change in the color of yourÂ skin,Â or wrinkling due toÂ dryness and reduced elasticity. Let us take a closer look at the types ofÂ menopause itching.
1. Skin Itching
Some of the most common areas you may experience itchy skin are the elbows and the T-zone, that is, your forehead and nose area. You might also experience itchy skin on your limbs, neck, chest, back, armpits, scalp, and the area around your ears.
Some women also experience a âpins and needlesâ sensation. This condition is called paresthesia (4). It is an abnormal sensation characterized by tingling, prickling, chilling, burning, or numbness in the fingers and toes.
Another condition some women are known to experience during menopause is formication. It is a sensation of insects crawling on or under the skin.
4. Genital Itching
Along with skin dryness and itchiness, women may also experience vaginal dryness and itching. If you were already experiencing vaginal dryness, it may get worse during menopause. The fall in estrogen level during menopause causes the vaginal tissues to dry out. Dry vaginal tissues make the walls of the vagina thinner, which leads to inflammation. This condition is known as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis (5). Inflammation causes discomfort and itching around the vulva and labia. This is known as vaginal itching or vulvar pruritus. Women who experience vaginal itching might also feel a painful or burning sensation while urinating.
Find out how to treat menopause itching in the next section.
Is It Possible To Get Rid Of Menopause Itching?
The good news is that it is possible to reduce or control menopause itching with the help of some home remedies. Check them out below.
I. HomeÂ Remedies
1. Colloidal Oatmeal
Ground oat grain is known as colloidal oatmeal. It is rich in vitamins, proteins, fats, and minerals that help to soothe dry, irritated skin. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a valuable skin protector, especially during menopause (6).
Colloidal oatmeal is a fine powder that can be dissolved in water and applied to theÂ skin toÂ relieve itching. Alternately, it can be added to warm bath water that you can soak in for some time. Then, wash it off with lukewarm water and gently pat yourÂ skinÂ dry.
2. Cool Compress
A cool compress is one of the quickest and easiest ways to soothe irritated skin. You can wrap a cool towel around the area that is itchy or keep it covered overnight if the itchiness keeps you awake. Using a soft, clean cotton towel is preferable to avoid further irritation.
Moisturize your skin regularly to retain its natural moisture and prevent it from getting dry. Petroleum jelly is one of the simplest yet best moisturizing options. Calamine lotion, coconut oil, or aloe vera-based gels and creams also help to lock in the moisture and soothe irritated skin. It is best to moisturize immediately after you take a shower.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps to create collagen, which keeps the skin stay elastic and hydrated (7). You can increase the level of vitamin C in your body through natural means by eating citric fruits. You can opt to take supplements or use products that are applied topically. Vitamin C plays a big role in healing damaged skin and preventing dry, itchy skin.
Phytoestrogens (or dietary estrogen) are naturally occurring compounds that are found in plants. Fruits, vegetables, certain grains, soy, and legumes contain phytoestrogens. Though this estrogen is slightly different from the estrogen produced by your body, it binds itself to estrogen receptors and works in the same way to produce collagen and natural oils (8). The efficiency of using phytoestrogens for menopause itching is still being researched. Its benefits are similar to Hormone Replacement Therapy, while its side effects are lesser.
When youâve tried home remedies, and they fail to give relief or the itching worsens, it is time to consult a doctor to treat menopause itching. Some of these medications may be available over the counter, while others may require prescriptions.
1. Anti-Itch Medication
Mild steroidal creams can be available over the counter or require a prescription by your doctor. They are applied directly to the affected area.
A word of warning: If you are using steroidal creams, be mindful of using them only for a short duration (9). While they go a long way in soothing irritated andÂ itchyÂ skin, they can also be harmful and cause theÂ skinÂ to blister, redden, or become thin if used for more than a week.
2. Over-The-Counter Medications
Hydrocortisone creams are available over the counter and work well to soothe dry, irritated skin. They should contain at least 1% hydrocortisone.
Anesthetic creams, as the name suggests, help to numb irritatedÂ skinÂ and provides relief for a short while. These creams should never be used on brokenÂ skinÂ as they can aggravate the condition.
Though antihistamines are usually used in cases of allergies, they can also be used to sootheÂ itchyÂ skin. Antihistamines may be available as creams or as drugs.
3. Prescription Medications
You can also use corticosteroids available as gels, lotions, creams, or aerosols. However, they need to be prescribed by a doctor.
III. Herbal Supplements
Herbal supplements also provide relief from itching. While they aid the body in producing hormones naturally, always use them only after a consultation with a doctor. Here are some herbal supplements that are useful during menopause:
â¢ Soy extract is useful in treating a variety ofÂ symptomsÂ duringÂ menopause.
â¢ Neem creams may reduceÂ menopauseÂ itching.
â¢ Dong Quai may increase levels of estrogen for a short while.
â¢ Maca root may aid the body in producing hormones.
â¢ Zinc supplements may increase collagen, thus bringing back the moisture retention and elasticity of theÂ skin.
However, extensive scientific research is required to prove all these benefits
IV. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone Replacement Therapy is a treatment used to reduce the symptoms of menopause. HRT increases the levels of estrogen in the body, which, in turn, increases the production of collagen and natural oils. These do their work of keeping the skin healthy and retain moisture. Thus, the dryness and itchiness reduce.
It is important to consider HRT only after a consultation with your doctor. While HRT is extremely effective in treatingÂ menopauseÂ itching, it is also known to cause some side effects. Some of these include:
â¢ Changes in the color of theÂ skin
â¢ Vaginal spotting or bleeding
â¢ Swelling or pain in theÂ breasts
â¢ Urinary incontinence
â¢ Increased risk of gallstones and heart disease
â¢ Increased risk of breast and uterine cancer (10)
Wondering if you can prevent menopause itching before it occurs? Find out in the next section!
Ways To Prevent Menopause Itching
It is possible to prevent menopause itching through some dedicated skincare habits:
As always, drinking plenty of water is one of the simplest and most important ways of not only flushing out toxins but hydrating your body from within. It increases the moisture in theÂ skinÂ and improves its condition.
A good and healthy diet goes a long way in providing your body with essential nutrients to fight illnesses. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is conducive to the production of natural and protective skin oils (11). Fish such as sardines and salmon, eggs, walnuts, soy, and flax seeds are rich in healthy, fatty acids.
â¢ Tepid Showers
Avoid having hot water baths or showers. They can be harsh on your vulnerableÂ skin. Hot water dries out theÂ skinÂ and removes its natural oils. Instead, go for lukewarm or cool showers. They help to sootheÂ itchy, irritatedÂ skin. You can use a loofah to take off some of theÂ dry, deadÂ skin. Pat yourselfÂ dryÂ after your shower instead of rubbing yourÂ skin with a towel. This helps to lock in its natural moisture.
Regular exercise helps to regulate hormones and maintain them at their optimal balance. This, in turn, facilitates the production of collagen.
â¢ Increase Sleep, Reduce Stress
Stress activates the release of histamine, which is known to cause itching and rashes (12). Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily and live stress-free to keep your body in good health.
â¢ Avoid Scratching
It can be quite a challenge not to scratchÂ itchy, irritatedÂ skin,Â but it is a must. Scratching yourÂ skinÂ could break it and leave it more vulnerable to germs and infection. Trim your nails regularly and, if necessary, use gloves atÂ nightÂ to prevent uncontrollableÂ itching.
â¢ Simple Skin Care Products
People often choose to use fancy, scented products on theirÂ skin. The fancier they are, the higher chance that they contain chemicals that might not agree with yourÂ skin. They rid theÂ skinÂ of its natural beneficial oils. Instead, choose simple, unscented products â soaps, lotions, creams, etc. â which are gentler on yourÂ skin. Avoid using perfumes.
â¢ Comfortable Clothes
It is important to let yourÂ skinÂ breathe. Synthetic fibers and wool tend to irritate theÂ skinÂ that is already sensitive. Wear loose cotton clothes, especially when you have sensitive,Â itchyÂ skin.
â¢ WearÂ Sunscreen
The sun can be harsh and ultraviolet rays can worsen anyÂ skinÂ conditions you already have. SPF 15 or higher is the most beneficial protection for yourÂ skin. Remember to apply sunscreen whenever you step out. Harmful UV rays are present even on cloudy, dull days.
â¢ Avoid Alcohol And Nicotine
The ingredients in alcohol and nicotine tend toÂ dryÂ out theÂ skin. They can also cause yourÂ skinÂ to age and wrinkle faster.
Itching is one of the more common yet lesser-known symptoms before and during menopause. Menopause itching can occur on different parts of your body, usually the face, elbows, and genital area. While there are many home remedies that can be used to treat and reduce menopause itching, it is advisable to consult a doctor for medication if the itching continues or worsens. There are also several healthy habits you can develop to prevent the occurrence of menopause itching.
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- Pruritus ,
- Estrogen and skin: therapeutic options ,
- Aging changes in skin,
- ParesthesiaÂ ,
- Vaginal Atrophy (Atrophic Vaginitis)Â ,
- Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin
- Vitamin C in dermatologyÂ ,
- The pros and cons of plant estrogens for menopauseÂ ,
- Hydrocortisone for skinÂ ,
- Risks – Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)Â ,
- Healing fats of the skin: the structural and immunologic roles of the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acidsÂ ,
- Effects of Stress on ItchÂ ,