Formication is a condition that supposedly increases with menopause. But before I delve any deeper into this mystery condition, we need to clarify that I am not talking about fornication. According to wikepedia fornication is ” generally consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other”. Only if you are a bit unlucky would skin itch be associated with fornication.
But all jokes aside, formication is a condition that can drive some menopausal women crazy. Formication is characterized by the feeling of being itchy and a sensation of insects such as ants crawling or biting the skin.
Coming into that age category myself, I sometimes wonder if I suffer from this condition. Living in the tropics however, I can usually put the sensation down to real ants. When I put my glasses on I often find ants in the bath towels, crawling over the lounge or travelling up my arms while I am sitting at my desk or cooking dinner. And then of course there are the fungal conditions that love to reside on the back where you can’t self diagnose them. But enough of my love affair with stinking hot weather!
Formication is a type of parasthesia i.e. a sensation of tingling, pricking or burning of the skin. A common form of parasthesia is “pins and needles” or the sensation of a limb such as the foot “falling asleep”.
My research has found very little information about the cause of formication although it is briefly mentioned in numerous research articles about menopause. Many articles link it with climacteric symptoms – a period of changes to the hormonal system, the somatic (nervous) system and psychological changes. A study of climacteric symptoms that involved 1,270 women found that formication was one of seven symptoms that increased with age, the others being hot flushes, perspiration, numbness, shoulder stiffness, lumbago an headaches.
Another study looked at menopausal symptoms in German and Chinese women. The German women were more likely to have formication and depression compared to the Chinese women who were more likely to have vertigo, headaches and paraesthesia symptoms. Shen-yang deficiency was diagnosed in the 51.43% of the German women compared to 5.71% of the Chinese women. In comparison 74.29% of Chinese women were judged to be Shen-yin deficient. The German women showed significantly lower hormone levels of testosterone. The study concluded that both German and Chinese women experience menopausal symptoms but have different patterns. Another study of women in the early postmenopausal period found that giving estrogen replacement helped to reduce signs of menopause including formication.
Positive results in relation to the reduction of menopausal symptoms including formication, were found in a study of the effects of exercise.157 women were recruited for the study with some selected as part of the intervention group and others as the control group. The intervention group were asked to perform aerobic physical exercise 3 times or more per week. The study found significant reduction in the signs of menopause including formication, in the exercise group after 12 weeks.
What Changes Occur to the Skin as the Body Ages?
There are many known changes that occur to the skin of postmenopausal women due to the changes in oestrogen levels that can include:
- drying of the skin and mucous membranes
- thinning of the skin
- loss of collagen
- vaginal burning or vulval itching/burning
What can you do to reduce formication symptoms?
If you are suffering with this uncomfortable skin condition there are several things that I would recommend. Firstly, investigate using alternative herbs that can help to balance out your hormone levels. Herbal and nutritional supplements are well known for their ability to relieve menopausal symptoms.
Secondly ensure the skin is adequately hydrated. This means drinking plenty of water and ensuring electrolytes levels such as magnesium are adequate to assist with absorption.
Ensure you are getting adequate levels of omega 3 (commonly found in fish or krill oil, but not well absorbed from flaxseed oil). Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and moisturizing to the skin.
Consider doing a proper detoxification program. As we age we become more toxic and a sign of liver issues can be itchy skin.
If the itch is extreme, try bathing in a bath that was filled very hot initially (to allow the chlorine to dissipate) and add a handful of oats to the bath. Of course, allow the bath to cool to a comfortable heat before soaking.
A good cream can also be useful. Look out for products with aloe, allantoin and bisabolol.
Remember that exercise is also very important in controlling the symptoms of menopause but also in maintaining your general health.
Book an Appointment for Expert Help with Your Skin Disorder.
Whilst some of the above recommendation can help, sometimes it can help to have expert advice. A natural health practitioner is skilled in treating the signs and symptoms of menopausal with herbal and nutritional supplements. Individualized topical products can also be formulated to help control the feelings of itchy skin.
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Hagen, C et. al. Acta bstet Gynecol Scandi, 1982. 61 (3):237-41. Effects of two years’ estrogen -gestagen replacement on climateric symptoms and gonadotrophins in the early postmenopausal period.
Yashiro Y, 1989. fEB:41(2);154-60. Study of climacteric symptoms in relation to ovarian function ageing and psychological factors.
Zhang G., et al. Effects of physical exercise on health-related quality of life and blood lipids in perimenopausal women: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.