For women, menopause heralds more than the end of fertility and monthly menstrual periods: It brings many physical, mental and emotional symptoms such as hot flashes, moodiness, sleep disturbances and hair loss, according to MayoClinic.com. Although menopause can cause thinning in hair all over the body, some women notice specific changes in the growth and appearance of underarm hair.
During menopause, underarm hair may exhibit changes in texture, thickness and growth rate. Underarm hair can become thicker, darker and more wiry during this stage of life, and coarse hair may sprout in new regions in a process called hirsutism. Conversely, some women may notice their underarm hair -- as well as pubic or scalp hair -- becoming thinner or falling out, according to Dr. Carolyn DeMarco.
Changes in underarm hair, as well as other symptoms of menopause, result from shifts in hormone levels occurring as the body turns off reproductive functions. During menopause, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen and progesterone, MedlinePlus explains. These altered hormone levels can contribute to hair loss, new hair growth or changes in hair texture -- whether under the arms or elsewhere on the body.
Menopause typically occurs between age 45 and 55 and lasts for five years, although some women experience menopausal symptoms earlier or later in life, MedlinePlus says. Because hormone levels gradually decrease throughout menopause, changes in underarm hair may occur at any point during this phase.
Because changes in underarm hair result from a systemic decrease in hormone levels, few treatments are available to stop or prevent the loss, new growth or altered texture of underarm hair. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy aimed to alleviate hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats and other major symptoms of menopause may also reduce changes in underarm hair, although this is not the primary focus of such treatments.
If you experience changes in underarm hair growth but haven't reached menopause, consult your physician to identify the cause and rule out a more serious condition. In addition, seek medical attention if your changes in hair are accompanied by severe or painful symptoms not normally explained by menopause. Although hormone replacement therapy may have favorable effects on your hair, this type of treatment may increase your risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, blood clots and stroke, according to MedlinePlus.