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Premature Menopause

Premature Menopause

While menopause heralds the gradual cessation of the menstrual cycle, in premature menopause this process is escalated. Instead of gradual menopausal changes that can take few years to occur, changes can happen quite dramatically, seemingly overnight. Menopause is a loss of naturally occurring hormones. It is the cessation of egg production and end of periods. Women who enter menopause are no longer able to get pregnant. Degeneration of ovaries prematurely is the first sign of menopause. Many invasive surgeries can also contribute to early menopause.

It is a fact that these days younger women as early as in their late thirties experience the onset of menopause. This can come as a shock for many. They even prefer to hide the fact from family and friends. For better understanding, premature menopause occurs before 40 years while early menopause occurs between 40 and 45 years.

How do you identify premature menopause?

The same set of signs and symptoms as with natural menopause can be seen in premature menopause as well. Hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness signify premature menopause. Changes in body shape are common and there is tendency to put on weight around the abdomen. Water retention and menopause usually go together.

Fluctuation in hormones can cause emotional ups and downs, anxiety and depression. As estrogen levels reduce dramatically, changes in body functions occur. As premature menopause is abrupt in nature, it may be shocking to the woman who is undergoing the process. She is suddenly confronted with profound changes in her body. The periods are heavier or lighter than usual. Women undergoing premature menopause can experience symptoms in a more severe fashion that those undergoing menopause naturally.

Causes for premature menopause

In many cases doctors are unable to determine the cause for menopause in younger women although sometimes there may be obvious causes for premature menopause.

  • Premature menopause may be caused by a hysterectomy which includes the removal of ovaries as well.

  • Hormonal imbalances can cause premature menopause. Medical treatments and illnesses may also lead to this condition.

  • Medical procedure like endometriosis may cause premature menopause. For instance, endometriosis happens when uterine tissue grows unchecked and this can sometime spread as far as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This condition is painful and can cause excessive bleeding. Hysterectomy is recommended most of the time which includes ovary removal.

  • Radiation and chemotherapy can lead to premature menopause. While in natural menopause the ovaries usually continue to produce low levels of hormones, in radiation and chemotherapy induced syndromes, the ovaries often cease functioning. This is referred as induced menopause.

Premature ovarian failure

Premature ovarian failure (POV) is yet another name for premature menopause occurring naturally. Women with premature ovarian failure either stop producing eggs or no longer produce the hormones needed to ovulate. The condition need not necessarily be permanent. Premature ovarian failure may be attributed to auto immune disorders which are responsible for more than 65% of POV cases. Certain genetic disorders such as Turner syndrome and Fragile X syndrome may be involved in POV.

It is estimated that about 5% of women enter the menopause stage early in keeping with the tradition of their mothers. There are also cases of women who are born with very few eggs causing menopause to occur years before it should. Premature menopause robs a woman of the protective benefits of estrogen and puts her at risk for post-menopausal health problems much earlier. The FSH or follicle stimulating hormone is a measure of estrogen production in a woman. If it shows a reading above 40 mIU/mL, it is indicative of menopause.

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