Cause and Effect of Early Menopause


    Early menopause, also known as premature menopause, is menopause that occurs before the age of 40. Most women experience menopause around the age of 51. Early menopause can result from medical procedures, genetics, or problems with the immune system. The symptoms of early menopause are similar to the symptoms of regular menopause. Women who undergo early menopause face postmenopausal health risks for a longer period of time. Different tests can determine if a woman is approaching early menopause.

Causes of Early Menopause
    Early menopause happens typically when the ovaries are compromised or removed. Some medical procedures can bring on early menopause. Chemotherapy and radiation in the pelvic area can damage the ovaries, leading to early menopause right after the treatment or several months later. Surgery to remove uterus can sometimes affect the blood supply to the ovaries. Later on, this can cause declining hormone levels and all the symptoms of early menopause. Surgically removing both ovaries usually results in menopause occurring right away.

    A few medical conditions can cause early menopause. Chromosomal issues, such as the deletion of some or all of an X chromosome can cause the ovaries to develop abnormally, resulting in early menopause. Women with a family history of early menopause may inherit genes that increase their chances of experiencing early menopause. Sometimes a woman's immune system will mistakenly attack the ovaries and damage them enough to cause early menopause.

Effects of Early Menopause
    The symptoms of early menopause resemble the symptoms of regular menopause. A woman may have irregular periods, missed periods, or periods with abnormally heavy or light flows in the time leading up to early menopause. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, bladder irritability, loss of bladder control, thinning of the lining to the vagina, and sleep disruption are physical symptoms of early menopause. During early menopause, a woman may also experience emotional symptoms such as decreased sex drive, mood swings and irritability. The risks of cardiovascular concerns and weakening bones increase after early menopause.

Tests for Early Menopause
    Early menopause generally is defined as 12 months in a row without a menstrual cycle. Other conditions, such as pregnancy, can cause a woman to miss multiple menstrual cycles. A doctor can rule out these possibilities. There are blood tests to see if a woman is entering early menopause. One test measures the level of estradiol, a type of estrogen in the blood.  Other tests measure the level of follicle stimulating hormone or luteinizing hormone in the blood to see if it is high. These test may need to be repeated, because the levels of both hormones fluctuate naturally over the course of each month.

    Early menopause is menopause that happens early in a woman's life. The symptoms of early menopause resemble the signs of regular menopause. Certain medical procedures can cause early menopause, as can DNA abnormalities and immune system problems. A visit to the doctor can rule out other conditions that resemble early menopause. Testing for the blood levels of estradiol, luteinizing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormone can help diagnose early menopause.

What Can Cause Early Menopause?
Medical Procedures    Chemotherapy, Radiation, Surgery
Medical Conditions    Chromosomes or Genetics, Immune System

1. Premature Menopause. WebMD.

2. Early Menopause (Premature Menopause). The National Women's Health Information Center. US Department of Health and Human Services.

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