Premature and Early Menopause
Premature and Early Menopause
Estrogen is the hormone that controls the reproductive cycle in women. When ovaries stop the production of estrogen, menopause occurs. The age range in which a woman can expect menopause is between 45 and 55 years. If menopause occurs before the age of 40, it is said to be premature menopause. If menopause occurs before the age of 45, it is said to be early menopause.
What causes premature and early menopause?
Damage to the ovaries, or bodily changes that stop estrogen, leads to premature and early menopause. For example, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for cancer or surgical removal of ovaries (oophorectomy), can stop production of estrogen. This is referred to as “induced menopause”.
Premature and early menopause can also happen because periods stop spontaneously due to Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). The causes of POI are not clear and often cannot be pinpointed. However, certain conditions are linked to POI. Chromosomal defects, genetics, autoimmune diseases, lifestyle factors, Epilepsy, metabolic disorders, infections like mumps, etc. can also be causes of this condition.
Chromosomal defects: Two X chromosomes that function are required for the normal functioning of ovaries. But genetic disorders like the Turner Syndrome or the Fragile X Syndrome can cause the ovaries to dysfunction, affecting the production of estrogen.
Genetics: Family history plays a hue role in determining the age at which a woman attains menopause. Often, the age of the mother or grandmother when they reached menopause can be a strong indicator of when a woman faces this event.
Autoimmune diseases: Some autoimmune diseases, like thyroid diseases, can cause inflammation and can affect the ovaries creating a negative impact on the production of estrogen.
Lifestyle: Smokers tend to experience early or premature menopause. Heavy and regular smokers are likely to go through an early or premature menopause. This is because smoking has a negative effect on the production of estrogen. Body Mass Index (BMI) has also been linked to early and premature menopause. Estrogen reserves are low in women with a lower BMI. Women with a higher BMI experience menopause later.
Epilepsy: Epilepsy has its roots in the brain. Epileptic women can experience Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), stopping the production of estrogen.
What can premature and early menopause lead to?
The quality of a woman’s health can deteriorate post menopause. They can be susceptible to certain medical conditions such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases.
The changes the body undergoes during an early or premature menopause is the same as that happens during a regular menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, bloating, vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, severe mood swings, depression, etc. are seen commonly.
Once estrogen levels decrease in the body, it is exposed several health risks. Osteoporosis can develop earlier in such women, since they lose bone density earlier.
The ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol increases and the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol decreases. Triglycerides also increase. This can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Other associated risks are periodontal diseases, ovarian and colon cancer, cataract formation, tooth loss, urogenital atrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, among others. Although these risks are seen among women after regular menopause, chances of these conditions occur earlier with early and premature menopause.
How to manage premature and early menopause
Leading an active lifestyle and paying attention to the diet plan, including supplements such as calcium, vitamin D, fish oils, multivitamins, etc. as prescribed by a doctor are key elements to managing post-menopausal health. Hormonal treatments are available in various forms depending on each individual’s convenience. Women with premature menopause face the challenge of infertility. This can lead to further stress and depression. Therapy sessions involving counselling and supportive discussions alleviate several concerns and provide a lot of information on how to manage individual problems.