The cessation of menstrual periods in a woman is called menopause. An absence of periods for 12 consecutive months can be medically defined as menopause. It ideally indicates the end of the fertile period in a woman’s life.
Statistics show that the average age of the onset of natural menopause in women is 51. But, in some women, due to various reasons like genetic condition, surgery, disease, and hormonal imbalance it is onset as early as at the age of 40. A condition in which menopause in onset before the age of 40 is called premature menopause.
Mentioned below is the list of symptoms and causes of premature menopause.
Symptoms Of Premature Menopause
- Irregular or missed menstrual cycle
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings, irritability, depression
- Heavy or lighter periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of bladder control
- Dry skin
- Decreased sex drive
- Changes in cognition
- Periods that last longer than a week
- Night sweats
Causes Of Premature Menopause
The causes for premature menopause could be diseases or certain treatments or surgery to treat certain diseases.
1. Premature Ovarian Failure
Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) is a condition where the woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs and estrogen hormone in the body. A woman with POF may still occasionally get menstrual cycles but is ideally infertile. In this case, fewer or immature eggs might be produced. This condition leads to premature menopause.
Studies show that women with epilepsy often have premature ovarian failure leading to early menopause.
2. Autoimmune Disorders
An autoimmune disorder is a condition where the body treats its own tissues and organs as foreign bodies and attacks them. Some of the disorders are rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid imbalances. These diseases could adversely affect the functioning of ovaries leading to premature menopause.
3. Lifestyle Disorders
Research indicates that long-term or chain smokers are more susceptible to premature menopause, as smoking negatively affects estrogen production and function. A protein-deficit diet, lack of vitamin-D, and sedentary lifestyle also can cause early menopause. While obesity is bad for overall health, a healthy BMI with optimum weight actually supports estrogen production, as estrogen is stored in fat cells.
4. Chromosomal Defects
Trisomy 13 and 18 are the two conditions in which there are an extra 13th and 18th chromosome, respectively. This causes developmental issues, where the woman though might have ovaries, might not produce healthy eggs. Another condition called Turner’s syndrome is characterized by missing or incomplete sex chromosome, which also contributes to the immature or unhealthy development of eggs.
A lot of woman-related issues depend on the health of the woman’s mother due to genetic inheritance. Early menopause is one of them. If the mother or sister of the woman had an early onset of menopause, the woman is more likely to have one too.
6. Chemotherapy And Radiation Therapy
Chemotherapy to treat ovarian cancer or any cancer in the pelvic area can damage the ovaries, contributing to the lack of egg production. Radiation therapy can also cause similar side-effects. The extent of damage depends on the dosage prescribed for chemotherapy and intensity of radiation therapy.
7. Hysterectomy And Oophorectomy
Hysterectomy is a surgical removal of the uterus in conditions like uterine fibroids, cysts, and cancer. This procedure, however, retains the ovaries. As a result of this, the hormonal production would not be greatly affected, but menstrual cycles would be absent (due to the absence of a uterus). Such women might not slip into menopause immediately but would experience it in a year or two after the surgery.
Oophorectomy is the surgical removal of ovaries in conditions like ovarian cancer, cysts, and when estrogen worsens the condition of endometriosis and breast cancer. As the ovaries are removed eggs and estrogen is not produced, it leads to premature menopause.
The treatments like hormone replacement therapy and menopausal hormone therapy help manage the symptoms. In both the cases, hormonal supplements are prescribed, but in different dosages and combinations. If you are below 40 and experience any of the above symptoms seek a medical advice immediately.