Around the age of 43 I started to suffer from restless legs. I was then about to begin the menopausal transition. Over time, I have gotten the impression that RLS could also be related to a person’s hormone balance. That is why I make the link here between the transition and restless legs.
Earlier I wrote about another phase in the life of many women, namely pregnancy. Many pregnant women experience restless legs around the third trimester. These may be related to folic acid deficiency. I do not know to what extent this deficiency is related to hormonal changes.
During the menopause, a lot changes in a woman’s body. This is a process of years. I have already read with a couple of fellow sufferers that there are women whose RLS started when they were in menopause. Could those two things be related?
In this blog I will elaborate on the following questions:
- What exactly happens during the transition?
- Is there a link between menopause and restless legs?
You can see menopausal transition as a phase of life. During this phase, the female body gradually produces less of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. The stock of eggs in the ovaries continues to decrease.
Menopausal transition is over when a woman has not had a period for at least a year. Only then do you speak of menopause.
The decrease in estrogen can have significant consequences. Women often develop all kinds of complaints during the transition period. A few examples of this are: hot flashes, muscle and joint pain, poor sleep, mood swings, depression, irregular blood loss and osteoporosis.
Menopausal symptoms start on average about five years before the last menstrual period and last up to two to three years after menopause. Longer or shorter also occurs. Menopause takes place between the fortieth and sixtieth year of life.
As I wrote above, it is quite common for women to experience restless legs during menopausal transition. Whether there is a clear link between the menopause and restless legs is an interesting question to me.
Hormonally, there is a link between the reduced production of estrogen and the production of other hormones. Estrogen promotes endorphins and serotonin production. Endorphins increase dopamine release. I am not a doctor, but this seems worthwhile to investigate further. Does less estrogen from the transition via less endorphins cause less dopamine, and thus RLS?
For me personally the complaints of restless legs started when I was at the beginning of the menopausal transition. I already had mild symptoms of RLS before. In a fairly short time my legs started to keep me awake more and more. Within a few months, not a night passed without restless legs.
My suspicion is that menopausal transition is a “trigger” for RLS. By this I mean that someone already has a predisposition to develop the condition. It can be hereditary, as in most cases of primary RLS. Once there has been such a trigger, the troubled legs often develop into a chronic and progressive condition. In other words, it keeps getting worse and you won’t ever get rid of it.
In the Netherlands, only a small percentage of menopausal women receives hormone therapy. This percentage is on average much lower than in other European countries. Dutch doctors are extremely cautious in prescribing them.
If there is a link between menopause and restless legs, hormone therapy could also be of interest to women who develop RLS during menopause. The approach to reduced estrogen could immediately have a positive effect on the complaints of restless legs.
For hormone treatment, there are tablets and plasters, as well as creams and gels. These usually contain a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Sometimes a hormone preparation contains only estrogen. The choice of a certain hormone therapy or a specific dose depends on the complaints. One woman is not the other. The types of complaints and the extent to which someone suffers from them can differ greatly.
There are various hormone supplements, for during the menopause transition and for after the menopause. In the Netherlands, hormone treatment is only prescribed if a woman suffers from (severe) menopausal symptoms on a daily basis. In other European countries, doctors are less conservative and prescribe such therapy much more often.