Premature menopause, also known as "early menopause", can happen naturally as a result of genetics, be medically induced or occur because of illness. At least 1 percent of American women are affected by this condition before the age of 40. However, in the case of identical and fraternal twins the percentage is slightly higher, averaging to around 5 percent. The reason for the increased percentage is not known, but in the case of identical twins fertility can possibly be restored with an ovarian tissue transplant.
Diagnosing Premature Menopause
If you suspect that you may have entered premature menopause, seek a professional diagnosis from a medical professional. Your doctor will need to perform a physical exam and blood tests to rule out other possibilities for your condition, such as pregnancy or illness. To properly confirm if you are experiencing premature menopause, take the next 3 steps to diagnose your condition.
1. First, call and schedule an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist when you begin experiencing the symptoms of premature menopause to confirm a diagnosis of your condition.
2. Next, describe the symptoms you are having to your physician and explain why you suspect that you may be experiencing premature menopause, such as a family history of the condition.
3. After your physician has performed all the necessary tests and if your condition is diagnosed as premature menopause, discuss the possible treatment options with your doctor that may be available to you.
Ten Causes Of Premature Menopause
1. Autoimmune Disorder
Autoimmune disorder is a condition that causes your immune system to mistakenly sense that a part of your body is a threat, which results in your body attacking itself. When this occurs, the antibodies your body sends out to destroy the invader attacks your reproductive system and eventually destroys the function of your ovaries.
2. Cancer Treatments
Women who undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer are at a higher risk of experiencing premature menopause. Damage to your ovaries can occur from the frequent and significant doses of these cancer treatments.
3. Chromosome Irregularities
Women are normally born with two X chromosomes, but sometimes only one chromosome is active. This rare defect referred to as "Fragile X Syndrome" interferes with your ovaries ability to produce eggs, which can cause you to experience menopause much earlier than normal. Another rare defect called “Turner’s Syndrome” occurs when a woman is born with only one X chromosome. This results in your ovaries not developing fully because of their inability to produce ovarian estrogen. These rare genetic defects of the X chromosomes are sometimes the cause of hereditary premature menopause.
4. Family History
Although it is not always the case, if a close female relative of yours, such as your grandmother, mother or sister went through menopause before the age of 40, there is a chance that you will also experience premature menopause.
Hyperprolactinemia is a condition that can cause your body to produce too much prolactin, a hormone that is responsible for the production of breast milk. Hyperprolactinemia could eventually lead you to experience amenorrhea, which is the cessation of your periods.
This surgical procedure is the most common reason for premature menopause. Once both of your ovaries have been removed your estrogen and progesterone levels suddenly drop. This causes you to experience immediate menopause and you could possibly have more intense menopausal symptoms than women who have gone through a gradual and normal change.
7. Surgical Procedures
Women who undergo ovarian cyst removal or tubal ligation can be at a higher risk for premature menopause. In very rare cases, these two surgical procedures can result in blood vessel damage and cause interference of the blood flow to your ovaries, which can eventually lead to ovarian failure.
This is a preventative drug that doctors prescribe to women who are at a high risk for breast cancer. The medicine acts as an estrogen blocker and signals your body to produce more FSH, a follicle stimulating hormone that regulates your body’s reproductive process. Your body’s reaction to the high level of FSH may cause you to enter menopause much earlier than normal.
9. Thyroid Disease
Hypothyroid and hyperthyroid are both autoimmune diseases that cause symptoms like the ones you experience when your hormone levels drop. This could result in your experiencing amenorrhea, the cessation of your periods that can lead to premature menopause.
10. Viral Infections
The development of your ovaries can be affected if your mother had a viral infection while she was pregnant with you. This could result in your being born with fewer eggs than normal and lead to premature menopause because of the possibility of your running out of eggs sooner than most other women.
Eight Symptoms Of Premature Menopause
1. Bladder Control Problems
Urinary Incontinence is a common symptom of premature menopause. During this stressful time of your life, you may have the sudden urge to empty your bladder or you may experience accidental urine leakage whenever you cough, sneeze or laugh.
2. Emotional Changes
Premature menopause can have a very large impact on your emotions. You may experience sudden changes in you moods, such as feeling happy one moment and angry the next. At other times you may experience unexplained moments of irritability, feel more short-tempered whenever you are upset, become aggravated about things much easier and feel depressed for no apparent reason.
3. Hot Flashes
During premature menopause your body may go through the process of hormone withdrawal, which can trigger periodic episodes of mild to severe hot flashes. When this occurs, you will experience a sudden sensation of extreme heat spreading throughout your body that leaves you feeling flushed and sweaty.
4. Loss Of Fertility
Premature menopause leaves you infertile and unable to become pregnant. This occurs when your ovaries have stopped functioning and can no longer produce the eggs needed for fertilization. This can be a very stressful and upsetting time when you are under the age of 40 and would still like to have children.
5. Loss Of Sex Drive
Premature menopause triggers hormone changes in your body which can affect your libido. When this happens you may experience a decrease in your sex drive. You could find it much more difficult to become aroused, which can lead to your feeling less interested in your sexual partner and your sex life.
6. Menstrual Irregularities
As you start to enter menopause your ovaries will begin to produce less estrogen, which will cause changes to your menstrual cycle. Before you stop menstruating completely, you may begin to notice shorter and lighter periods than what you normally have. There may also be times when you will experience a much heavier flow than you are used to before your periods become irregular and start to occur less often than normal.
7. Sleep Disruptions
Premature menopause can interfere with your regular sleep pattern, leaving you feeling listless and very groggy during the daytime hours. You may find yourself suffering from frequent bouts of insomnia, which can lead to difficulty in falling asleep or remaining asleep. You may not be able to enjoy the rest and relaxation that you crave due to your feelings of restlessness during the night.
8. Vaginal Dryness
As you enter premature menopause your estrogen levels drop, which can result in vaginal dryness and pain during sexual intercourse. The decrease in the hormone estrogen levels causes the walls of your vagina to become thinner and drier, which can make sexual activity feel very unpleasant for both you and your sexual partner.
Complications Of Premature Menopause
Women who have entered premature menopause do not have the protection of their own estrogen any longer. This leaves these women at a far greater risk for developing health related complications than women who have gone through the normal stages of menopause. If you are experiencing premature menopause you should ask your doctor to monitor you more closely for menopause related health problems. You will have an increased risk for developing osteoporosis, heart disease, ovarian and colon cancer, periodontal gum disease, tooth loss and cataracts.
Five Treatments For Premature Menopause
These medications can be very helpful in treating and alleviating mood disorders such as depression. Zoloft has been prescribed in many cases. In addition, Lexapro (a top- selling prescription antidepressant) has also been shown to ease hot flashes in menopausal women in a study, proving itself a potential alternative to hormone treatments.
2. Fertility Options
Discuss fertility options with your physician, such as future implantation from harvested fertilized eggs.
3. Hormone Treatments
Discuss hormone replacement therapy with your doctor. These treatments can be given to ease hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and mood swings.
Use a lubricant to help relieve vaginal dryness. You can purchase this product as a prescription or buy it over the counter.
This is a synthetic steroid that helps to relieve hot flashes and night sweats.
Five Ways To Cope With Premature Menopause
Attend public counseling sessions at a premature menopause clinic or seek private counseling with a mental health professional to discuss any negative feelings you may be experiencing.
Exercise regularly by taking a brisk 30 minute walk every day. Exercising causes your body to release endorphins, a natural morphine like chemical found in the brain that helps to relieve pain and stress.
3. Family And Friends
When you are feelings emotionally down seek support from your family and friends. A good long talk or a friendly hug will help to lift your spirits.
4. Online Support Group
Join an online support group for women under the age of 40 who are experiencing premature menopause. Chatting with others who are going through the same situation as you can help to give you a sense of well-being.
5. Significant Other
If you are starting to question your desirability because of your inability to conceive, talk openly with your partner about your feelings. An intimate discussion with your significant other can help to ease your worries and restore your confidence.
Although you may not be prepared to enter menopause at such an early age you do not have to let premature menopause stop you from living a normal and happy life. With the right support from family, friends and other means you can get through this difficult time.