Menopause is a permanent situation when a woman completely stops having her period for 12 months in a row. The average age most women reach menopause is in their 50’s but menopause can occur even if you’re 60 years old. Some women get it even when they’re just 40.
A woman is said to be experiencing premature menopause if she reaches menopause before 40. Although there are no major risks associated with premature menopause, it might bring a massive change to the life of someone experiencing it.
Let us take a deeper look at the topic of premature menopause.
What causes premature menopause?
Studies have shown that one of the major causes of premature menopause is genetic disorders (chromosome defects.) Girls born with chromosome defects such as Turner’s syndrome are born with only one X chromosome or are born with a partially developed second X chromosome.
This leads to the formation of underdeveloped ovaries which can cause premature menopause. Also, if premature menopause runs in the family then the future generations are likely to face this issue too.
Women who go through a hysterectomy or surgical removal of the uterus may not reach menopause right away since their ovaries are left untouched and still continue to produce hormones. However, they will not experience periods anymore and will not be able to get pregnant either.
Since a hysterectomy decreases the amount of blood flowing to the ovaries, menopause may start a year early or even a few years early. A woman who goes through a bilateral oophorectomy where one or both ovaries are removed is bound to experience the symptoms of menopause and reach menopause. The patient will not have periods anymore and certain hormone levels will decrease rapidly.
Women suffering from ovarian cancer or will need to go through pelvic radiation treatment or chemotherapy which can damage the ovaries. So, chemotherapy or pelvic radiation treatment can also be a factor that leads to missed periods and ultimately induces menopause in patients.
However, it all depends upon the amount of chemo used and which type of chemo was used. Younger patients who are more resilient may not experience menopause because of the chemotherapy. However, due to the damage sustained by the ovaries, she may not be able to get pregnant in future.
When autoimmune diseases like thyroid or rheumatoid arthritis ravage our body, our body’s immune system will fight against these diseases. During this process, the immune system may attack the reproductive system and induce menopause. It will seem as though the body is fighting itself, but that’s just the way it is.
You may be wondering, “What are the symptoms of premature menopause and how is it diagnosed?”
The symptoms experienced while going through premature menopause are same as the symptoms experienced during natural menopause. As the estrogen level falls rapidly during menopause, symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats start to occur.
You may feel sudden uncomfortable warmth around your neck, face and chest. You may also see temporary red patches in these areas. You may experience night sweats which is excessive sweating during the night that leaves your clothes, pillow and bed drenched with perspiration.
Other known symptoms are irregular periods or permanently stopped period, sleep deprivation, vaginal dryness, loss of bladder control etc.
Doctors will use blood tests to confirm the levels of different hormones to determine if a woman is suffering from premature menopause.
Are there any risks associated with premature menopause?
Because of the rapid fall of estrogen hormones in the system, the risk of getting diseases like osteoporosis, colon and ovarian cancer will increase. Other than that, premature menopause may have an effect on a woman’s emotions and self-esteem.
At times like these, it is always best to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. If you’re depressed about your condition, it would be good to speak to a counselor too. It’s good to have someone to talk to and you’ll be equipped with tools to help you cope with the changes.
Premature menopause is neither a disease nor a death sentence. Many women have gone on to lead healthy, rewarding and happy lives despite experiencing premature menopause.