Ever feel uncomfortable in your own skin? Is menopause getting under your skin? Your irritation may be due to paresthesia, a term that applies to all kinds of skin sensations.
Crawling skin or paresthesia is a common complaint during menopause. But as with many discomforts, menopause may not be the root cause of your tingling or burning skin. Compared to North American women, Chinese women cite paresthesia more often (45% in a recent study) but women everywhere may experience this symptom during menopause.
Paresthesia refers to a list of skin sensations that vary in intensity from one person to the next. These sensations may last for just a few minutes or may become a chronic, permanent condition. Paresthesia can occur in almost every body part from feet to hands or even the face. Typically you might experience one or more of the following sensations:
Numbness – similar to when your foot or arm ‘falls asleep’ when sitting or leaning in a certain position puts pressure on internal blood flow
Tingling skin – a feeling that is similar to when the blood flow returns to normal in a body part that has ‘fallen asleep’ and is now regaining movement
Burning skin - feeling that your skin is hot or 'on fire' with no apparent cause such as a burn or sunburn
Pins and needles skin – that intense sensation you notice when the numbness subsides and blood flow returns to normal
Pricking skin – usually described as a feeling that your skin is being chafed or rubbed
Note that itchiness is not a common symptom; itching skin will prompt you to scratch for relief compared to the tingling sensation which is not helped by scratching. If you have any redness, swelling, or other unusual symptoms menopause is likley not the cause.
Menopause and paresthesia
For some women the depletion of estrogen is a cause for the increased intensity of skin sensations. Decreased estrogen levels affect collagen production; collagen is the skin’s support system that helps to keep skin layers strong and supple.
Less collagen contributes to the thinning of aging skin and makes for more sensitive skin. Your doctor can test your hormonal levels to confirm if skin discomfort is linked to menopause. For cases associated with menopause your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
*Exercises to help increase blood flow
*Avoid sitting in one position for prolonged periods of time
*HRT therapy to balance estrogen hormonal levels
*Skin creams to keep skin supple and moist
*Stop smoking because smoking contributes to further collagen breakdown
*Get a proper diet with enough Vitamin B naturally or in a supplement
Other causes of paresthesia
Menopause is just one of many possible causes for burning or tingling skin. Your doctor will also need to know your full heath history to make a proper diagnosis and to rule out the possibility of a more serious health issue. A partial list of the more common underlying causes includes:
*Multiple sclerosis (MS)
*Malnutrition, especially a Vitamin B deficiency
*Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels
*Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Your doctor will also perform tests including MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, blood tests, and electromyography readings (EMGs) to find out what is causing your discomfort. If your skin is making you uncomfortable, keep track of the types of sensations you are experiencing and their frequency. Crawling, burning, tingling skin can become one less thing to worry about during menopause.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You