My Experience of Perimenopause and Lupus

For months I've been struggling with the classic lupus flare symptoms, and I assumed that this was just a prolonged phase I was experiencing, although one issue that was new to me was that I was having hot flashes. It sounds silly but because I'm so used to my body being out of whack it didn’t even occur to me that perhaps this could be down to the menopause!

I'm 45 years old now therefore it should really occur to me that my body must be starting to change and be in the processes of transitioning to menopause. It wasn’t until I started to factor in other symptoms, I'd been experiencing that the ‘lightbulb moment’ happened.

Lupus or perimenopause?

Some of those symptoms were night sweats, palpitations, insomnia and a slight change of duration in the days of my monthly cycle, feeling angry and vaginal dryness. These symptoms are common in lupus, and it can be incredibly difficult to know if it’s that or if there’s another issue going on. I would say for me it was the hot flashes that were the biggest giveaway.

Perimenopause refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, and it usually tends to happen sometime in your 40’s although this can vary and happen much earlier in some women. The main issue during this time is that estrogen levels start to fluctuate which causes all of these annoying and sometimes debilitating symptoms.1

Symptoms

I believe that insomnia has been the biggest problem for me along with bladder pain and sensitivity up until now. It’s the strangest feeling as I will literally wake up every hour all night long and it feels like a surge of anxiety rushing through my body and I jolt awake. As we know too well, lupus fatigue is one of our major symptoms so being sleep deprived isn’t much fun. I’ve found it’s made my brain fog much worse.

I have been plagued with urine infections (UTIs) on my lupus journey which had started to settle down the last couple of years however I’ve just experienced another one and my doctor told me that you are at higher risk of developing them during perimenopause due to the effects of low estrogen which can cause the lining of the uretha and bladder to become thinner. This is a scary prospect for me as I don’t want to be plagued by constant UTIs again and have to take endless courses of antibiotics.

Having the anxiety of not knowing how this will affect my lupus is rather daunting. I seem to be extremely sensitive to hormones as I feel my disease activity increases the week before my period is due.

Coping with perimenopause and lupus

If symptoms of perimenopause become too much to cope with then there are treatments out there than can help such as HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and estrogen therapy but with having lupus we need to be incredibly careful of what we put into our bodies. I can’t stress enough how important it is to talk with your doctor about what the best option for you would be.

Some more natural approaches I'm interested in are..

  • Acupuncture
  • Calcium and vitamin D
  • Healthy balanced diet
  • Meditation
  • Hydration

I’m incredibly grateful that we can talk more openly about menopause, and there seems to be a lot more support out there than of days gone by. I realise that it can have a huge impact on mental health too so getting help and support with this is equally important.

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