Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, and her estrogen levels decrease, marking the end of menstruation and the reproductive cycle. This major physiological event typically occurs in women ages 45 and 55 and is preceded by obnoxious symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, or mood swings.
However, for some women, menopause may come earlier than expected, specifically before the usual onset of 45. While sometimes it can be genetic, it can also be caused by external factors that stop estrogen production, such as chemotherapy or an oophorectomy.
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Early Menopause Symptoms
For the most part, women are said to have reached menopause after undergoing an entire year without a period. However, for early menopause, the condition can be classified as soon as women experience significantly longer or shorter periods than average. Women going through early menopause can also experience:
- An extended time in-between periods
- Periods lasting longer than a week
- Spotting in-between periods
- Heavy bleeding during periods
When diagnosing early menopause, your physician will explore your medical history through a series of tests to determine the origins of the early onset.
Possible Causes Of Early Menopause
There is no single cause of early menopause, but for the most part, it can be attributed to the following triggers:
A disorder characterized by seizures in the brain, individuals with epilepsy is much more likely to experience early menopause. This is likely due to the prevalence of primary ovarian insufficiency. The changing levels of hormones in someone with menopause play a role in seizures in people with epilepsy.
Autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease can cause early menopause in women by inflaming the ovaries. During an autoimmune flare-up, the immune system sees a specific part of the body as an invader and begins to attack it. When it attacks the ovaries, it can cause them to stop working, leading to menopause.
Many conditions that stem from chromosomal abnormalities can lead to early pregnancy. Women with Fragile X syndrome, for example, are likely to have early menopause and can also pass down this condition genetically to their descendants. Turner syndrome, another condition resulting from chromosomal issues, is characterized by the ovaries’ poor function, which can trigger early menopause.
The lifestyle choices you make can also significantly impact whether you get early menopause. Poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, little sun exposure, a sedentary lifestyle, and even a vegetarian/vegan diet can lead to early menopause. Extremely low BMI can also lead to early menopause, as very thin women tend to have lower estrogen stores. Mental health can also affect your experience with menopause, and BetterHelp can help you understand how.
If your doctor finds that none of the previous factors are causing your early menopause, chances are that the root cause is simply genetics. For the most part, the age at which you being menopause is inherited, and looking to the age when your mother or grandmother began menopause can give you a clue as to when you’re likely to experience it as well.
How Is Early Menopause Treated?
There isn’t really a treatment for menopause, but some treatments exist to help women manage the symptoms of menopause, such as HRT or hormone replacement therapy which can help keep menopause symptoms at bay.
However, HRT doesn’t come without its risks, such as breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease, so you must have a conversation with your physician about whether the rewards outweigh the risks according to your medical history.
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.