SINGAPORE: While hot flushes—a sudden feeling of warmth in the face and upper body—have for years been believed to be the most common symptom of women in menopause, a new study shows that joint and muscle pains are what women in Singapore in this stage of life experience the most.

A statement released by the National University Health System (NUHS), the National University Hospital (NUH), and the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) on Friday (Jan 12) characterised the results of two studies carried out last year as “groundbreaking.”

The comprehensive studies, funded by the Singapore National Medical Research Council, were published in October and December 2023. The first showed that 62.6 per cent of 1,054 Singaporean women experienced at least one moderate to extremely severe symptom during menopause. Among the symptoms, arthralgia—or muscular and joint pain—ranked number one, with one-third (32.9 per cent) of the women reporting having experienced it.

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“This groundbreaking research, unique to Southeast Asia and focused on Chinese, Malay, and Indian ethnicities, highlighted arthralgia’s prominence over other symptoms such as sleep problems (27.5 per cent), vaginal dryness (20.3 per cent), physical and mental exhaustion (19.6 per cent), and hot flushes (18.6 per cent),” reads the joint statement.

The second study revealed that nearly three-fourths of the 1,120 midlife women (74.9 per cent) suffered from mild to very severe arthralgia, with the majority reporting it during the postmenopausal period. The study, published in the official journal of the International Menopause Society, showed that arthralgia is associated with other symptoms of menopause including vaginal dryness, physical and mental exhaustion, and poor muscle strength.

“Menopausal arthralgia or joint pain is a condition that even clinicians globally are not well aware of. Filling these gaps will help understand the burden of arthralgia and its associated factors among a healthy population of midlife women and may shed understanding on improving its management,” said Professor Yong Eu Leong, Emeritus Consultant at the National University Hospital’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

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“Arthralgia can be debilitating and may lead to a decline in the quality of life among healthy midlife women,” he added.

As the findings from the two studies show a difference from western studies, they underline the importance of understanding and managing menopausal symptoms, especially arthralgia, for Singaporean women.

The statement also said that given the findings, a follow-up study from the Integrated Women’s Health Programme (IWHP) at the National University Hospital (NUH) is forthcoming. /TISG

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