What Causes Early Menopause?

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Early menopause happens when a woman’s menstrual cycle halts before they reach 45 years of age. Most women start menopause anywhere between 45 and 55 years, but with a few exceptions. Premature menopause may happen organically, or there could be underlying medical reasons. If you are under 45 and have missed your period for one year straight, Dr Wallace McLean can help you determine what is amiss. There are three stages to natural menopause:

Perimenopause

This transitional phase begins when ovaries start producing fewer hormones such that estrogen and progesterone levels do not stay constant. Perimenopause ends when actual menopause starts, and this is when a woman will experience the signs of menopause, and the experience is not usually pleasant.

Menopause

A woman’s menstrual cycle stops during this stage because the ovaries are not releasing more eggs and estrogen levels are significantly lower. If she misses her period for one year straight, and the doctor rules out underlying medical conditions, then menopause is officially underway. From this point onwards, the woman can no longer conceive.

Postmenopause

This stage occurs after menopause, and the symptoms associated with menopause, like hot flashes, subside. Some women, however, continue to experience menopausal signs even after reaching menopause.

Unfortunately, not all women experience menopause naturally, as the above stages dictate. Below are common reasons for premature menopause in women:

Chemotherapy treatments

Patients undergoing cancer treatment stand a chance of going through menopause earlier than the typical age. Different chemotherapy treatments affect the body in varied ways, and not all women commence menopause as a result. If the treatment is around the pelvic area or the brain, you stand a higher chance of premature menopause.

Cancer patients who are considerably young and have not yet hit puberty may not be affected. If your daughter is receiving such interventions, speak to a gynecologist to understand the potential effects on her reproductive health.

Autoimmune diseases

If the patient or someone in their lineage suffers from autoimmune diseases like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, they are predisposed to premature menopause. Thyroid problems often develop gradually, and you may not be aware until you are tested. Your gynecologist will refer you to an endocrinologist to conduct a thyroid function test and draw inferences from the results. If the tests come up okay, you will need further testing for ailments like lupus.

Failing or missing ovaries

Ordering a test to measure your estradiol levels is the most reliable way of knowing if your ovaries are functioning correctly. Estradiol is a kind of estrogen, and it regulates many bodily functions. If the estradiol levels are less than 30, it signifies the commencement of menopause regardless of your age. Surgical procedures to remove the ovaries – such as when treating ovarian cancer – can launch premature menopause.

As you approach your mid-forties, you need to pay keen attention to your body. If you notice symptoms of early menopause, consult your trusted gynecologist to determine if your body is fine. Patience is vital as unearthing medical problems can be draining, particularly when you present generic symptoms.

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