What is considered early menopause? Early menopause is characterized by not having your period cycle for 12 consecutive months prior to being 45 years of age. Aside from early menopause there is also premature menopause which occurs before age 40, and is commonly known as premature ovarian failure (POF) if it occurs naturally. POF simply means that a woman’s ovaries are malfunctioning and prematurely shutting down in her 20’s, and 30’s, decades before they naturally should.
What is the cause of early menopause? Early menopause can occur for a number of reasons, some of which include:
?Autoimmune disorders – It is estimated that 2/3 of women who suffer from POF have autoimmune disorders; a medical condition characterized by the body’s immune system malfunctioning and attacking itself. In the case of POF, the autoimmune disorder eventually results in the destruction of ovarian function.
?Chromosomal Irregularity – This is a hereditary condition in which a woman has a defective X chromosome. In short, if one of a woman’s two X chromosomes is defective, it can interfere with egg production which can result in early menopause.
?Total hysterectomy or Oophorectomy – When the ovaries and uterus are surgically removed (total hysterectomy), or when only the ovaries are removed (oophorectomy) a woman is put into menopause, regardless of her age.
?Chemotherapy or radiation – Certain types of chemo and radiation treatments for cancer can damage the ovaries and put a woman in menopause right away.
Other reasons why a woman may experience early or premature menopause include:
? Ovarian damage that results from surgery
? Viral infections
? Hyperprolactinemia (Overproduction of prolactin causes amennorhea – cessation of periods)
? Thyroid disease
? Polycystic ovarian syndrome (characterized by skipped or missed period cycles)
? Cushings disease (characterized by overactive adrenal glands and can result in amenorrhea)
? Family history
The following are the signs and symptoms of perimenopause (stage before menopause occurs) to watch for –
? Irregular periods (Skipped periods or change in duration or frequency)
? Vaginal dryness
? Hot flashes
? Breast tenderness
? Stress incontinence (bladder control issues)
? Restless sleep and/or insomnia
? Gastrointestinal upset (constipation, diarrhea, nausea, bloating etc.)
? Tingly or itchy skin
? Thinning of hair or hair loss
? Weight gain
? Dizziness or lightheadedness
? Low sex drive
? Mental fogginess
? Extreme fatigue
? Emotional detachment
? Lack of concentration
How can you determine if you are experiencing early menopause? If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or others that are not listed and you suspect you may be experiencing pre-menopausal symptoms, it’s time to bring your speculations to your doctor.
There are three main tests you can take to determine a menopause diagnosis –
1.FSH test – A follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) test is used to test a woman’s FSH levels. If levels are high it’s a sign that the ovaries have stopped producing sufficient estrogen and could mean that the body has begun menopause.
2.Blood test – You can ask your doctor for a blood test to determine estradiol levels. Estradiol is a form of estrogen and the levels decrease when the ovaries begin to fail. Therefore, low estradiol levels may be a sign of early menopause.
3.Thyroid test – A thyroid test is a good idea because many perimenopause symptoms mirror thyroid problems. Therefore, this test will help you determine if what you are experiencing is indeed early menopause.
If you are diagnosed with early menopause, you will find that there are different treatment options to help you cope with symptoms. Be sure to talk to you doctor about all possible treatments.
By: Kathryn Whittaker
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