There may be several reasons for a menopause early age onset. Some of them are innocuous; some are very serious and may well require treatment. It is becoming recognized more widely that a woman’s hormones do more than make her fertile and reproductive and that the decline of these hormones can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms. Therefore when it comes to the menopause early age onset is something which can cause an increased risk of developing neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease; cognitive decline and dementia as well as a greater risk of heart disease. Prior to the menopause a woman’s hormones protects her to some extent from these diseases.
So what would be considered a menopause early age onset?
Typically, a woman can expect to begin experiencing significant symptoms of the menopause such as irregular menstruation, night sweats and vaginal dryness between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five. Anything earlier than that would be considered menopause early age onset.
However, there are other health problems as well as simple stress or low weight which can mimic the symptoms of menopause early onset and result in a lack of menstruation. A more sure-fire way to know if you are entering the menopause, early age or not, is by asking your doctor to do a simple FSH level test on a urine or blood sample. This will ascertain whether you have the very low levels or a total absence of a follicle stimulating hormone that will make you ovulate.
Causes of menopause early age onset
Typically, doctors will call it menopause early age onset if it occurs before the age of forty. Some causes of this condition are obvious, such as having had your ovaries removed through cancer. This will prevent ovulation and this send the woman’s body into a menopausal state at whatever age she is. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also cause menstruation to cease.
It is possible that this condition is caused by nothing more worrying than family history, so if this is happening to you, try to find out of your mother and grandmothers entered the menopause prematurely. A clue may also be in you started your menstrual periods early, before the age of eleven, because then it may simply be that your ovaries ran out of eggs.
Premature ovarian failure (POF) doesn’t necessarily mean that your ovaries have run out of their supply of eggs. This is sometimes the case in menopause early age onset, but it is not inevitably so. It could also be that your body has ceased responding to biological signals which are telling it to ovulate. The waters are muddied because you can have menstrual periods without ovulating and when you have ceased ovulating, after the menopause, you may have an occasional bleed, just like with your menstrual period.
There are some women whose menopause early age onset is caused by a chromosomal abnormality. It is sometimes referred to as ‘fragile X syndrome’ whereby one of the woman’s two X chromosomes is somehow weakened. This second X chromosome can also be missing completely as in Turner’s syndrome.
As if all this wasn’t complex enough, some women have a third X chromome which results in menopause early age onset too.
Women who have experienced menopause early age onset are more susceptible to osteoporosis and heart disease, which their hormones would previously have protected them from. This means that menopause early age onset is usually treated with hormone replacement therapy or even a low dose of the contraceptive pill.
The bottom line is that whatever the reason for your menopause early age onset, it’s a sign that your ovaries are not performing as well as they should be doing. This has significant health implications and will probably require treatment, so you should discuss your options with your doctor.