I’m menopausal and suffering from a horrific creepy crawling feeling over my whole body. Are there any suggestions to help?

This unfortunate condition is known as formication (from the latin word ‘formica‘ meaning ‘relating to ants’). It is a type of paraesthesia which gives the sensation of insects crawling under the skin.

Formication can occur for different reasons. It can be caused by conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, or it can be due to certain medications. Unfortunately is can also occur during the menopause.

It is thought to develop because the dropping level of oestrogen that occurs during the menopause has an effect on the skin. It causes drying and thinning of the skin, along with loss of collagen. The resulting dry, delicate skin can sometimes trigger disordered sensation signals which the brain interprets as a crawling sensation.

What can be done to help?

Hormone Replacement Therapy – It is definitely worth considering HRT to help with these symptoms, particularly if it is so bad that it is affecting your sleep. There are also other things you can do yourself to help improve the symptoms:

Keep the skin hydrated – make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids to keep your body hydrated, and get a good emollient to moisturise your skin. I also recommend using emollient as a soap substitute – I often suggest applying before you get in the bath or shower and just let the water gently wash it away. Oatmeal baths can also be soothing

Use a cool compress – when areas are particularly bad you can cover them with a cool damp towel. This can be helpful at night.

Diet – increase the omega-3 in your diet as it can help with skin inflammation. Foods containing phytoestrogens (soy, legumes and seeds – sunflower, sesame and flax) may be of some benefit. As discussued, keep well hydrated and avoid too much alcohol.

Antihistamines – these may be beneficial for some women. You can buy them cheaply in pharmacies and supermarkets, and some have the added benefit of a drowsy side-effect which can help if you are struggling to sleep.

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