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Menopause and breathing difficulties

Shortness of breath can be a menopause symptom but it's important to talk to a doctor to make sure there's no underlying lung disease.

Image of the body with the lungs highlighted

What are menopause-related breathing difficulties?

While it’s unusual for most of us, a small number of women do experience breathing difficulties during the menopause transition. It’s a symptom that can crop up in different forms.

Some women feel shorter of breath than they usually would, while others experience reduced exercise tolerance and fatigue. Some may not notice a difference at all until a healthcare professional checks their lung function.

The menopause transition can also impact pre-existing lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive airway disease, which may worsen.

What causes breathing difficulties in the menopause?

Doctors still don’t completely understand why breathing difficulties happen during the menopause. A drop in oestrogen can affect inflammation in the body, which could interfere with lung function.

Many women feel more anxious during the perimenopause and menopause. A physical symptom of anxiety is shortness of breath, so this could also be a factor. You can read more about anxiety during the menopause transition here.

How many women typically experience breathing difficulties?

There is a general lack of information about how many women are affected by breathing difficulties during their menopause transition.

Menopause lung disease statistic

Are breathing difficulties linked to any particular stage of the menopause?

The truth is that there’s no clear answer to this question. If your breathing difficulties are the result of a drop in oestrogen, they could affect you at any stage of your menopause transition.

How can breathing difficulties be treated?

First, check with your doctor that your breathing issues are not due to any underlying lung disease.

It’s essential to get checked if you have warning signs like wheezing, coughing, coughing up blood, chest pains, dizziness, or palpitations, but really, any change to your breathing needs checking out before deciding whether or not it’s connected to the menopause.

Some things that you can do to help with breathing difficulties are:

Staying fit and active

As with any aspect of the menopause, staying active and looking after yourself is vital. Our friends at Her Spirit have lots of help and advice available. They can help you find an activity for you and provide the support to do it.

Stop smoking

As well as reducing breathing difficulties, it will also reduce your risk of cancer. If you would like help to quit, the NHS is a great place to start.

Singing

Probably not the advice you were expecting, but the truth is that singing is a joyous activity and is a great way to improve your lung function.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)HRT composite

More studies are needed to find out if HRT can help reverse the changes to the lungs. HRT can be very effective at treating other symptoms of the menopause transition. You can learn more about HRT here.

What next?

If your breathing difficulties are acute and severe, please seek emergency care by calling 999.Book a menopause consultation

If you’re worried about breathing difficulties, you should see your GP. If all other causes of breathing difficulties have been excluded and you would like to discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause, book an appointment with our menopause clinic.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of the menopause transition, you can learn more with our symptom checker or by taking our Menopause Questionnaire.

You can also find more information about the menopause transition at the British Menopause Society and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Authored by:

Dr Clare Spencer
Registered menopause specialist, GP and co-founder

Last updated:

07/04/2021

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