What is early menopause? How you can spot it? What are its causes and are there any possible treatments? Here’s everything about it!
The gradual decline of women’s reproductive function, mostly known as termed menopause, usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age.
In the United States, the average age for women to reach menopause is 51.
However, sometimes the cessation of the menstrual cycle and the appearance of concurrent menopause symptoms can even occur at a younger age – about 30-40 years. It is called early menopause.
This, without understanding why your body is going through hormonal changes and what it means to your overall health, could be confusing and intimidating.
Below, you will find the essential menopause-related information alongside necessary steps to deal with early menopause.
Causes Of Early And Premature Menopause
You may find it confusing, but premature and early menopause aren’t exactly the same things. The first one affects women before the age of 40, and the latter usually occurs when women are 45.
Both types of menopause share many of the same causes and symptoms and result in an inability to get pregnant.
The main reasons why early and premature menopause may occur are:
- Genetic disorders and hereditary diseases, for example, galactosemia.
- Family history – if cases of early or premature menopause were reported in mother, grandmother, sister, or aunt younger than 46 years.
- Precocious puberty, which happens when the first menstrual periods occur between 8 and 10 years, leading to depletion of the ovaries.
- Surgical removal of the pelvic organs. For instance, the presence of tumors, internal injuries, cyst rupture, purulent processes in the appendages, and ectopic pregnancy developing in the ovary require surgery to remove the uterus, ovaries, or their parts.
- Chemotherapy or radiation affecting the neoplasm as well as all body systems, chemotherapy drugs may cause the onset of premature menopause in about half of cases.
- Autoimmune diseases, chromosomal abnormalities, certain infections (mumps), HIV, and AIDS.
- General exhaustion of the body, caused by stress, unbalanced nutrition, rigid diet, or smoking and alcohol abuse.
If there were no surgical causes or obvious medical reasons for early menopause, it means a woman experienced primary ovarian insufficiency (POI).
The term premature ovarian failure (POF) is rarely used, as many women with such a diagnosis can still have irregular periods or intermittent ovulation.
Early Menopause Symptoms And Health Risks
It is crucial to be mindful of changes in your body and be familiar with typical signs and symptoms. As such, you should talk to your doctor regularly and determine any possible causes.
Symptoms of early or premature menopause mostly coincide with the common menopausal symptoms, which include:
- Violation of the menstruation cycle;
- Hot flashes;
- Increased sweating (night sweats);
- Emotional changes (mood swings, depressive episodes, irritability, increase in anxiety levels);
- Weight gain;
- Skin changes (dry skin and wrinkles), hair loss and thinning;
- Vaginal dryness (discomfort during sex);
- Urination disorders or more frequent urge to urinate;
- Changes in sex drive;
- Decreased productivity, concentration, and lower performance of tasks connected with memorizing and analyzing information;
- Tender breasts;
- Headaches, joint, and muscle pains.
Noticing symptoms associated with menopause is vital, as early and premature menopause types have an increased risk of developing severe health problems due to low hormone levels of estrogen.
Such conditions include:
- Heart disease;
- Bone loss (osteoporosis);
- Metabolic disorders;
- Neurological diseases (for example, increased risk of dementia);
- Autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis and diabetes).
Are There Any Options For Treatment?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. However, it is crucial to understand that any existing treatment options should be recommended only by your doctor after medical evaluations, based on your particular health situation.
Such procedures may include blood tests for specific hormones, DNA tests for genetic causes, and a pelvic exam.
The results will allow your doctor to provide medical advice and suggest an individual treatment.
Keep in mind that every treatment has its benefits and risks (such as breast cancer or stroke) and cannot be recommended for all menopausal women.
The most common treatments for premature or early menopause and primary ovarian insufficiency include:
- Menopausal hormone therapy – a hormone-replacement therapy where bioidentical hormones supplement reproductive hormones like progestin and estrogen
- Oral contraceptive pills intake (to help relieve menopause symptoms)
- Supplemental calcium and vitamin D intake (to help prevent osteoporosis)
- Talk therapy and antidepressant medications – both are good for preventing depressive episodes, but the latter also helps control hot flashes
As you can see then, there are many treatment options when dealing with early or premature menopause.
However, keep in mind that even hormone therapy doesn’t guarantee everything will come back to normal. Some symptoms will require additional help. Such as hot flashes.
How To Relieve Hot Flashes?
There are several things you can do to relieve hot flashes:
- It is recommended to dress in layers and in fabrics that allow your skin to breathe.
- You should also avoid foods and drinks that may provoke a hot flash, like spicy foods, alcohol, or caffeine.
- Another tip is to keep a diary of when symptoms occur to understand better what may trigger them.
You may also have concerns about how early menopause will affect your sex life. The thing is, it may vary from one woman to another.
For instance, according to one research, some women do not experience a decrease in their sex drive at all.
Sure, vaginal dryness, which appears because of low estrogen levels, can indeed be an obstacle. An easy-to-remove one, though, as there are many non-hormonal vaginal lubricants, creams, and gels that will help make your sex life comfortable again.
Menopause is a natural process in women’s health, so it is essential to learn to accept hormonal changes in your life. You should perceive it as a new stage, not a disease.
Nevertheless, it can be challenging if menopausal symptoms occur untimely.
Be mindful of your body sensations and possible signs of menopause should be essential, so do not neglect any symptoms – be it hot flashes or missed periods.
Make sure to schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as any of them occur. It will allow you to determine what may cause hormonal changes and which treatment or medical support is needed.