Menopause and general itchiness

 

Itching is not the first symptom that springs to mind when discussing menopause. However, this is a common and inconvenient problem which affects many women as they age. Read on to find out more about the causes and treatments.

ITCHINESS DEFINITION

An annoying and irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch the affected area. Sometimes it is caused by heat extremes or dry, irritated or cracked skin.

If you are spending your days frustrated by your menopause symptoms… download Stella.

VULVA & ITCHINESS DURING MENOPAUSE

There are many parts of the body that can be affected by itchiness.

It is also common to experience dryness, intense itching or discomfort around the vulva and vagina at the time of menopause. This is often as part of a condition called atrophic vaginitis, or thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls.

If you have itching or discomfort in your vagina or vulva, you will find more useful information in our blog.

Read more about the stages of menopause.

Most common affected areas

Chest

Back

Face and neck

Arms and legs

HOW CAN YOU MINIMALISE ITCHINESS?

Use an unperfumed moisturiser every day, ideally after bathing and use a laundry detergent for sensitive skin. Avoid products with a high pH.

Avoid scratching your skin if possible – try tapping or patting instead. Keep your nails short to avoid causing any damage by scratching.

Wear loose, light clothing to avoid overheating and try not to wear synthetic fibres or tight clothes.

Avoid extremes of heat and cold, try using humidifiers or air conditioners.

Avoid spending too long in water, including hot baths, swimming pools and jacuzzis.

CAN HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY HELP?

Some women find that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps if the itch is not soothed by simple measures like those mentioned above, or if it becomes too disruptive.

Studies have shown that HRT use can increase the levels of both skin hydration and skin surface lipids (a naturally-occurring layer of oils that keep the skin hydrated).

HRT has also been shown to increase the amount of collagen in the skin.

Although it can be very useful, HRT is not suitable for everyone. Speak to your doctor if you would like to find out more about the best treatment for you.

Itchiness and menopause

The ‘female’ hormone oestrogen has many functions throughout the body, including in the skin.

The high levels of oestrogen seen in younger women help to keep the skin healthy and plump by stimulating the production of both collagen and the natural oils which help the skin to retain moisture.

However at menopause, your body begins to produce much less oestrogen, resulting in a lower production of both collagen and natural oils. This can cause excessive dryness, which in turn leads to itching.

Other skin changes seen after menopause include thinning, poor wound healing, loss of elasticity and fragility.

Although general itchiness can happen purely due to menopausal changes, there are many other possible causes. If you have any itching that persists for more than a few days, it is important to check in with your doctor. They may want to do some further tests to rule out any underlying issues.

You should seek a medical review urgently if you have general itching as well as:

  • A yellowish tinge to your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Lip, tongue or facial swelling, tightness in the chest or throat, or difficulty breathing
  • If you feel otherwise unwell or concerned
I was astonished that I didn’t know vaginal dryness was part of perimenopause.”

Kwavi

DISCOVER MORE

Lubricants helped my vaginal dryness during perimenopause. Read more

My search for treatment to relieve my vaginal atrophy. Read more

Top recipes with menopause-friendly foods to help you. Read more

WHAT MENOPAUSE RELIEF IS AVAILABLE?

Download Stella for personalised cognitive behaviour therapy for bothersome symptoms during menopause

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NHS, 2020, Itchy Skin, accessed 5th March 2021 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/itchy-skin/

Fries WC, 2010, Menopause and Dry Skin: The Hormone Connection, WebMD, accessed 5th March 2021 https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/menopause-dry-skin-hormone-connection#1

Jay K, 2020, Does Menopause Cause Itchy Skin? Plus, Tips for Managing Itchiness, Healthline, accessed 5th March 2021 https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/menopause-itching

Duarte GV, Trigo AC, Paim de Oliveira Mde F, Skin disorders during menopause, Cutis, 2016 Feb;97(2):E16-23.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26919507/ 

Hall G, Phillips TJ, Estrogen and skin: The effects of estrogen, menopause, and hormone replacement therapy on the skin, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 53, Issue 4, 2005, Pages 555-568

 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962204022200