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Menopause that happens earlier than the expected age of around 50 years is called premature or early menopause. This may be due to primary ovarian insufficiency where the periods spontaneously stop, as a result of chemotherapy treatment for cancer or surgically induced menopause when the ovaries are removed. The impact on physical health, emotions, mood, body image and relationships can be significant, but there are treatment options and ways to manage premature and early menopause, which can help.
In addition to dealing with hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms that accompany menopause, many women undergoing premature menopause have to cope with additional physical and emotional concerns. For example, because menopause signals the end of a woman’s fertile years, a woman who wishes to get pregnant is likely to have trouble.
Premature menopause Facts
- When menopause occurs before the age of 40, it is referred to as premature menopause.
- One medical cause of premature menopause is premature ovarian failure.
- Other causes of premature menopause include damage to the ovaries by chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments, or surgical removal of the ovaries.
- The symptoms of premature menopause include mood swings, vaginal dryness, cognitive changes, hot flashes, decrease in sex drive, and sleep disturbances. Symptoms are the same as those of menopause that occurs later in life.
- Diagnostic tests can show an elevated level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and low level of estradiol.
- There is no treatment that can reverse or prevent premature menopause.
- Hormone therapy and other treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms of premature menopause.
- Complications of premature menopause include infertility and an increased risk for osteoporosis.
Causes of Early or Premature Menopause
It is hard to point out specific causes for premature or early menopause. However, there are some situations that can trigger the onset of menopause at an early age. In brief, there are natural and medical causes of early or premature menopause.
Natural causes of early menopause
Premature ovarian failure (POF). Also known as premature menopause, POF is diagnosed when a woman stops egg production or the hormones she needs to ovulate. It can be the result of many factors, from genetic predisposition to autoimmune disorders.
Medical causes of early menopause
Infection. Some diseases have been proven to affect the functionality of the ovaries (tuberculosis, the mumps, etc.).
Hysterectomy. The removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and sometimes ovaries causes early menopause. Hormone and egg production is dramatically interrupted, leading to the onset of early or premature menopause.
Tubal ligation. Often women that have undergone a tubal ligation procedure enter menopause at an earlier age.
Other causes of early menopause
Stress. Although stress cannot cause early menopause by itself, it does play an important role in the severity and frequency of symptoms.
Even though the causes mentioned above are the most common, there are other early menopause causes that should be taken into account when analyzing the possible onset of early menopause.
Click on the following to read more information about early menopause causes, or continue reading to learn about early menopause signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of Early Menopause
Our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are constantly shifting throughout our life, and that’s normal. But as we age, the fluctuations and ratios between these hormones can become more extreme. When the body cannot regulate these shifts in hormone levels, women can experience common symptoms of menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes, food cravings, and fatigue.
But by approaching these symptoms naturally, balance can be restored, and both the frequency and severity of symptoms will improve. Here’s how.
Nutrients provided by both a diet consisting of healthy, whole foods, along with nutritional supplements can help restore balance at the cellular level.
Herbal remedies can help balance the fluctuations in hormone levels. A functional medicine provider can work with you to determine exactly what herbs you need to help your specific imbalances.
Lifestyle changes including removing environmental toxins, getting proper sleep, and reducing chronic stress can help reduce the symptoms associated with early menopause.
All of these changes can effectively and proactively help you reduce your risk for diseases as well, especially of the heart and bones.
How is Premature Menopause Diagnosed?
To diagnose premature menopause, your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and draw blood to rule out other conditions, such as pregnancy and thyroid disease. He or she may also order a test to measure your estradiol levels. Low levels of estradiol, a form of estrogen, can indicate that your ovaries are starting to fail. When estradiol levels are below 30, it may signal that you are in menopause.
However, the most important test used to diagnose premature menopause is a blood test that measures follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH causes your ovaries to produce estrogen. When your ovaries slow down their production of estrogen, your levels of FSH increase. When your FSH levels rise above 40 mIU/mL, it usually indicates that you are in menopause.
Early Menopause Treatments
When women are diagnosed with premature or early menopause, they have to deal with both physical and emotional changes. Fortunately, they are not left alone in this battle because there are three approaches to consider when deciding to combat early menopause.
These early or premature menopause treatments are: lifestyles changes, alternative natural medicine, or medications. They range from mild to intense and should be administered carefully. They ought to be used only after having analyzed all of their benefits and possible side effects.
Out of the three approaches, lifestyle changes carry the least risk. However, they entail major commitment and discipline. Techniques, such as acupuncture, yoga, or meditation, are known to help women regain control of their bodies and minds. Despite such benefits, bear in mind that those techniques do not address the problem at its source.