Menopause naturally occurs after a woman turns 45. However, some women experience menopause a little too early than normal. This phenomenon is what they call premature or early menopause. Let us figure out what are the reasons for early menopause and how it affects women.
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs once a woman’s ovaries start producing less estrogen. When a woman’s estrogen level decreases, it will cause irregularities in the menstrual cycle, until it stops for good.
Ages 45 to 55 is when women normally experience menopause. However, research shows that 1% of women can go through menopause before reaching their 40’s.
What is premature or early menopause?
Premature or early menopause happens when a woman goes through menopause before the expected normal menopausal age, or before the age of 45. This occurrence can take place naturally, or it can be induced due to medical treatments or surgeries.
Early or premature menopause cannot be delayed or reversed. However, there are available treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms of early or premature menopause.
Women who have gone through early or premature menopause can experience infertility and other serious medical conditions, such as osteoporosis and ischemic heart disease.
What causes premature or early menopause?
Before reaching 40, some women already undergo menopause.
There are some rare instances where a girl aged 13 has already gone through menopause. The causes of premature or early menopause can sometimes be identified, but there are still instances that the origin is unknown.
To give you an insight into what triggers early menopause, here are some possible causes:
One of the known factors on why premature or early menopause happens is due to medical surgeries and treatments. Induced menopause refers to a terminated menstrual cycle as a result of the following.
This is a surgical procedure that removes both ovaries. This type of surgery causes your estrogen level to drop rapidly, which leads to immediate menopause.
This is the surgical removal of the uterus. According to Duke University researchers, young women who undergo hysterectomy have greater chances of experiencing early menopause even though they have preserved both of their ovaries.
Removing your uterus causes your menstrual cycle to permanently stop, which leads to infertility.
Women who kept both of their ovaries might naturally experience menopause just a year or two compared to women who did not have the surgery.
However, if you had a hysterectomy and had both of your ovaries removed as well, then you will experience menopause right away.
Chemotherapy and other radiation treatments
These can cause different levels of damage to your ovaries, depending on the number of treatments and the drugs used. These therapies can cause temporary to permanent menopause or early menopause to younger women.
Underlying medical conditions, such as:
Autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism, Crohn’s disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, or rheumatoid arthritis cause the immune system to mistakenly attack organs in the body, like the ovaries, which leads to premature menopause.
HIV and AIDS can cause women to experience menopause onset at least 3 years earlier than other women.
Chromosomal abnormalities like Turner syndrome can lead to early menopause since women who have this condition most likely have undeveloped ovaries.
Other causes such as:
Hereditary. If none of the causes mentioned above is the reason why you’re experiencing early menopause, then it is more likely hereditary. If your mother or other women in your women have gone through early menopause, then you have a higher risk of having the same fate.
Smoking. Women who smoke, especially those who are heavy smokers, can experience menopause at least 2 years earlier than non-smokers. They can also suffer from more aggressive menopausal symptoms compared to those who don’t smoke.
What are the symptoms of early or premature menopause?
Knowing what are the reasons for early menopause can help you understand and be aware of the symptoms it comes with.
The usual symptom of premature or early menopause is irregular or permanently stopping of the menstrual cycle. Other symptoms that a woman who’s undergoing early or premature menopause are the same with the usual menopausal symptoms, like:
- Hot flashes or a sudden feeling of heat, particularly more intense over the face, neck, and chest.
- Night sweats or recurrent extreme perspiration during sleep.
- Vaginal dryness and tightness which commonly causes painful sex or dyspareunia.
- Sleeping problems, such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
- Urinary problems such as increased frequency and urgency to urinate and urinary incontinence.
- Frequency of UTIs or urinary tract infections.
- Mood swings, irritability, sudden feelings of sadness, anxiety, struggles with memory and concentration, as well as depression.
- A decrease in libido or sex drive.
- Dry and sometimes itchy skin.
- Breast soreness.
- Weight gain.
- Stiffness or joint and muscle pain.
- Hair thinning and hair loss
If you experience the following symptoms at a younger age, immediately consult your doctor. Doing so will help you determine whether you are undergoing premature or early menopause or suffering from other medical conditions.
What are the health risks of premature or early menopause?
Premature or early menopause can lead to long-term medical conditions, such as:
- Mood disorders
- Neurological diseases
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Psychosexual dysfunction
- Premature death
How to manage premature or early menopause?
It is important to take note that premature or early menopause is incurable or irreversible. However, there are treatments available that can help manage and alleviate the symptoms of premature or early menopause.
Consult your doctor or a medical professional before trying any of these treatments:
If you now have an idea on what are the reasons for early menopause, then you might want to consider trying out hormonal therapy. Hormone replacement therapy or estrogen therapy (HT/ET) are medications that contain female hormones, which helps ease the symptoms of early menopause.
HT/ET is a common treatment used to treat vaginal dryness and hot flashes. It comes in different forms, including pills, patches, gels, or creams, or transdermal sprays.
Experts say that HT/ET must be given in the lowest effective dose in the shortest possible time. This is to prevent possible health risks such as stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer from ensuing.
Certain antidepressant medications that are a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may relieve symptoms of early menopause such as hot flashes. These antidepressant drugs can help women who cannot undergo hormonal therapy due to health conditions. Women who suffer from mood disorders as a result of early menopause are also advised to take low-dose antidepressants.
You can ask your doctor about other treatment options that can help you manage the symptoms of early menopause. Always remember not to self medicate and do treatments that are not prescribed by health professionals.
Premature or early menopause can be scary and bothersome to women who suffer from it. Just always remember that all it takes is keeping yourself well informed to keep your fears and anxiety at bay.
Determining what are the reasons for early menopause can help you prepare yourself for it. Knowing its causes as early as possible will make it easier for you to find treatments that can alleviate the symptoms you’re currently or might soon be experiencing.
Never be afraid to consult medical professionals, as they can help you get through this challenging stage of your life.
Learn more about Women’s Health and Menopause, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.