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How to Survive Menopause When Dealing With an Illness

I managed the slippery slope of balancing my menopause and thyroid disease, and I want to share the dos and don'ts that got me through it.

Illness and the Menopause how to deal with it and keep your sanity

Illness and the Menopause how to deal with it and keep your sanity

This is aimed at patients who are suffering from an illness—particularly an autoimmune disease—on top of having menopause.

Starting Menopause With a Thyroid Disease

Hot flashes, fatigue, night sweats, a possible weakness of the bladder, and terrible, terrible premenstrual tension. Yes, you still get these symptoms even when your periods may have stopped. These are just some of the symptoms of the menopause. It hits some people like a sledgehammer, while for others, it slowly creeps up on them. But most of us tend to recognize menopause when it hits—unless, of course, you are suffering from another illness at the time.

My personal experience with menopause overlapped with a diagnosis of a thyroid disease.

I was diagnosed with Graves' disease smack bang in the middle of my menopause. Trust me when I tell you that it was not fun! One of the worse things about menopause is not getting enough sleep. You toss and turn all night long and wake up feeling like hell in a pool of sweat!

Symptoms of Menopause Can Overlap With Symptoms of Some Illnesses

Hot, Hot, Hot!

The trouble with recognizing when you're in menopause is that the symptoms can be very similar to certain illnesses. For example, if you suffer from a thyroid disease, it's possible that you will sweat heavily throughout the day and night. Your bones will ache, and your heart will race faster than normal.

Here are more symptoms of menopause and thyroid illness that tend to overlap:

  1. Night sweats
  2. Aching arms and legs
  3. Sleeplessness
  4. Mood swings
  5. Fast heartbeat
  6. Thumping heart
  7. Headache
  8. Rushing (blood flow around the body that feels as though its speeding up)
  9. Chills
  10. Depression

Keep Cool!

Finding the Perfect Underwear

Check out online and brick-and-mortar clothes shops menopause-specific underwear specially made for handling those hot flashes and night sweats.

Thyroid Medication Seemed to Worsen My Menopause Symptoms

Medication for your illness can sometimes make your menopause worse—at least in my experience.

When I started taking carbimazole, I began suffering badly from symptoms of fibromyalgia. My whole body felt like it had been run over. Pain in my arms and legs was excruciating, and it made my menopause much more painful. I didn't have just hot sweats but dripping, boiling blood sweats. Trust me. It wasn't pleasant.

It's hard to say what's causing all the increased distress. It could be a vicious cycle: the thyroid disease symptoms are worsening the menopause symptoms, which in turn, are worsening the thyroid disease symptoms.

Well, in any case, don't panic; there are ways to find out and put them both in their rightful place. At this point, I have to say that not all illnesses are similar to thyroid disease. But if you have an autoimmune disease like I do, it might make you feel and look a mess!

How I Coped With the Stress and Chaos

With all the sweats, chills, sleeplessness, lack of sex drive, and mood changes, menopause can be very distressing. Many people do sail through it without a problem, but if you suffer from another disease, the symptoms can feel worse. I remember trying to drag myself to work through all the pain, sweat, and tears.

So what can we do to alleviate the problem?

Learning the differences between the symptoms of your illness and the symptoms of menopause is a start. Now that may sound obvious, but it was tremendously helpful for me.

Research your disease on reputable health sites. Buy a book that explains your illness. You may have had the illness for many years and think this is a waste of time. Trust me when I tell you it's not. I went out and bought a fantastic book about Graves' disease and other thyroid illnesses. I was surprised to find that I had missed so many symptoms.

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Dealing with all the symptoms of menopause and your illness can take up a lot of your mental energy. I've found that leaving notes for myself helps me stay organized and get things done.

Dealing with all the symptoms of menopause and your illness can take up a lot of your mental energy. I've found that leaving notes for myself helps me stay organized and get things done.

Tips to Survive Menopause When You Have an Illness

Be Your Own Advocate

  1. Educate yourself. Read two books: one about menopause and one about your illness.
  2. Monitor your meds. Do any medications you take affect your menopause symptoms? If so, let your GP (doctor) know, and see if you need to raise or lower the doses—or even change what time of day you take them. It's important to discuss this with your GP first before altering your treatment regimen.
  3. Ask your doctor about black cohosh, an herb commonly used in alternative medicine to treat symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, to see if it's right for you. Only take it with your GP's advice. Mixing prescriptions, supplements, and herbs without proper consultation could worsen your situation—or decrease the effectiveness of the medications you're currently taking. Check and check again!
  4. Every night, write down everything you have to do the next day. Dealing with all these symptoms can take up a lot of your mental energy, and you may be more prone to memory problems. If you write down things down, you won't forget important things like taking your meds or going to see your doctor.

Try Different Strategies to Keep Cool

  1. Sleep on cotton sheets with only a couple of blankets, if needed. A duvet is pretty much a no-no when you are sweating.
  2. Try not to have too many hot showers. If you can bear it, make the water a few degrees cooler. This will balance your body much better than too much heat. Hot water will work for a few minutes, but when it cools, you will sweat again.
  3. Relax. Read, watch TV, or just sleep. If those hot flashes are being a pain, put your feet in a bowl of cool water. It balances the rest of your body.

Stay Active and Get Fresh Air

  1. Try to get a lot of exercise. Sounds strange? Even a 10-minute workout can balance your body (and mind) better than any medication! Of course, if you are chair-bound, or your body hurts too much because of your illness, then gentle movements like arm swings, ankle rolls, and feet lifts can still be just as useful.
  2. If you are capable, try yoga. You don't have to do the hard stuff. Just gentle stretches or exercise of any sort can help.
  3. Try and get as much fresh air as possible. A dry, stale environment will make you either sweat too much or get dehydrated.

Stay Hydrated and Eat Small Portions

  1. Drink lots of fluids. Water is always best, but cranberry juice and lemon barley are great for keeping your bladder healthy.
  2. Do not drink alcohol or caffeine. Both will make your symptoms worse.
  3. Keep an eye out for water infections. As your hormones start to drop, you can suffer from dehydration, which in turn, can cause trouble with your bladder.
  4. Eat a smaller portions—especially in the evening at dinner. This may help your body maintain energy throughout the day.

Take Time for Yourself to Care for Your Mental Health

  1. Don't be surprised if you find that you cry a lot. Don't worry about it; cry as much as you like. Crying releases chemicals in your body that calm you and help you feel better.
  2. If you start to suffer from anxiety or mood swings, take a rest. It doesn't matter if you are still working, tell your employer that you have to have a few minutes to calm your mind and body.
  3. Talk to your family or friends about how you are feeling. If you feel that it is much too personal, join an online support group or local help group to discuss how you are feeling mentally and physically. Speaking with other patients can sometimes be more useful than seeing your GP since your GP is usually in a hurry and doesn't always understand what you're going through.
  4. Surround yourself with color. Sounds strange? There are a lot of theories about the effects of color on the mind, body, and behavior.

Final Thoughts

You can't remember everything. You've got enough on your plate. One thing I noticed about going through menopause with a thyroid illness is that my brain turned to sludge. That's why you should take notes—lots of notes, if possible. If you find that things keep slipping your mind, writing things down is the best way to keep on the right track.

Besides taking care of yourself, ask your partner or a family member to watch out for you. You may sometimes act vaguely, you may forget to take your tablets, and you may forget appointments. Let them know that if they see you staring into space for more than a few minutes, they should make an appointment with your GP to see what can be done.

You can and will get through the menopause. Hopefully, with these tips, a lot more easily than you thought.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Nell Rose


Nell Rose (author) from England on April 30, 2019:

You can get tablets for it from the Chemist, not sure what they are called over there though. Thanks

Rosemary Amrhein on April 29, 2019:

Great tips for when I get it, right now I have severe pms and I get so irritable! I wish there was something for that!! And fatigue.

Nell Rose (author) from England on April 09, 2019:

BGrey, I have deleted your comment because I believe you have put it on the wrong article. This is about menopause and pain.

Nell Rose (author) from England on April 07, 2019:

Thanks Dianna, yes it was a bit weird at the time, lol! but if it helps others through the menopause then that's great.

Dianna Mendez on April 07, 2019:

Nell, I had little complications from menopause but I chalk it up to the good advice you share here and that I followed. You have been through so much yet you remain strong. Thanks for sharing from your personal experience to help others through this season of life. God bless you, sweet lady.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 28, 2019:

Thanks, Thelma, Yes I can imagine how cold you were going from a hot country to a cold, glad you are alright now, and thanks

Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 27, 2019:

I am sorry to hear that you have complications during your menopause. I am so lucky to have not experienced those hot flushes, etc besides being forgetful during that stage of my life. Well, feeling cold yes but I didn't wonder as I have always felt cold in Germany.

Great hub Nell and the tips are very useful. Have a great day.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 23, 2019:

Thanks Linda, yes it was a bit fard at the time, but it got better with the Meds thank goodness.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 22, 2019:

It must have been very difficult to go through menopause while suffering from Grave's disease. I'm sorry that you had to experience that, Nell. Your suggestions should be helpful for people in a similar situation.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 21, 2019:

Thanks Peggy, it was like laying in cold water, Heaven!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2019:

In reading this, I am happy to know that menopause is now in your past. I well remember those days, and it was not fun. Compounding it with another condition would have made it even worse. Wish I had known about that cooling pad for the bed when I was going through menopause. You may be helping others who are just now going through it.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 19, 2019:

Thanks Dora, it was a while ago, but I remember it well! LOL!

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 19, 2019:

Thanks Ruby, yes that's one of the main things to be careful off. Thanks for reading.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 19, 2019:

Hi Linda, not sure who Wendy Williams is, I am in England so maybe she isn't on our TV. But yes, I must have fallen over/fainted loads when I was first diagnosed with Graves Disease. And yes a water infection is just another word for bladder infection. Thanks for reading.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 19, 2019:

LOL! Paula, I wouldn't expect anything else from such a fabulous person as you! alway great to see you!

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 19, 2019:

Thanks Linda, I know what you mean, I could have sure done with my mum too at that time, hope it gets better for you.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 19, 2019:

Been over that hump, Nell. Glad you're over that difficult experience. Thanks for sharing some very helpful suggestions.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 19, 2019:

Nell, I had the night sweats and chills, glad that's over! Your piece was well written and informative, especially about mixing over the counter drugs with pharmaceutical meds.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on March 19, 2019:

Great information Nell. I am so sorry to hear what you've been going through. I have a question-what is a water infection-is it like a bladder infection? I'm sure you heard that the t.v. Personality, Wendy Williams just found our she has Graves disease. She fainted on her show on Halloween. She was dressed up as the statue of liberty. My guess is there are many of us that are undiagnosed w/ something. Just to find out what's going on with your body must be an important part of the healing process. Hope your symptoms are @ a minimum these days my friend.

Suzie from Carson City on March 19, 2019:

Nell....Uh-Oh! You're not going to like me at all when I tell you that I breezed through menopause without the slightest issue of any kind whatsoever.....Sorry. My mother, my sister and I...all 3 of us, escaped the entire nightmare. Just lucky? Who knows, but no complaints.

I took a night course in "chromosomes" and DNA to try to understand familial traits for many reasons. But alas girlfriend, the only thing I learned was that now I LOOK AT MY X AND ASK Y?? Love ya, Effer

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 19, 2019:

Nell, I'm sorry you've had such difficulties. This aging thing isn't for sissies, that's for sure, and going through menopause makes me wish my Mom was still here so that I could apologize for all the times she was probably feeling crappy and had a terrible teenager to contend with (when I was 13 she was 57).

This will be helpful to so many people. Thank you for taking the time to write.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 19, 2019:

I forgot to add, swimming is a great way for exercising and keeping cool! And I did it nearly every day, lol!

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 18, 2019:

Thanks Flourish and Lorna, glad you found it helpful.

Nell Rose (author) from England on March 18, 2019:

Thanks Pamela, yes lupus is painful isn't it?

Good thinking Eric, yes you have to know what she is going to go through! lol!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 18, 2019:

I am sure getting diagnosed with Graves disease at the same time as menopause arrives must be difficult, to say the least. I didn't have too much difficulty even though I have lupus. My mother had much for difficulty.

I think keeping a journal is one of your best suggestions, and you had several good ones. Great article Nell.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 18, 2019:

Clearly this is not considered to be a man's issue. But--- I went straight to the about mixing up medicine and supplements as it applies to all matters.

But more importantly I think we owe it to our spouses to be informed so we support in a healthy fashion

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 18, 2019:

It sure isn’t easy aging! You provide excellent tips here, Nell. I’m sorry you’ve had it so rough.

Lorna Lamon on March 18, 2019:

This is an excellent informative article and one I will refer to when the Menopause hits. Thank you for sharing.

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