Early Menopause

Healthy Aging, Healthy Living
on August 19, 2011
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Menopause is a natural process that occurs in most women between the ages of 40 and 55. Sometimes, a woman will experience early menopause, also known as premature menopause, which happens before age 40. There can be several reasons for this, including genetics, surgery or illness.

Common causes. Genetics are part of the determining factors of when a woman will experience menopause. If the women in your immediate family have experienced early menopause, you are more likely to as well, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Surgical procedures or diseases that damage or remove the ovaries are a common non-biological cause of early menopause. The ovaries produce the hormones associated with menstruation, so women may experience immediate menopausal symptoms upon having these removed. Hysterectomies, or removal of the uterus, can also prompt early menopause, though the onset is more gradual than removing the ovaries. In addition, autoimmune or genetic disorders can be a cause of premature menopause.

Check for symptoms. The symptoms of early menopause are just like those of classic menopause. Menstruation becomes sporadic and eventually stops altogether. The loss of hormones like estrogen and progesterone can lead to loss of bone density and eventually osteoporosis. An article published by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics states that 45 percent of women also suffer from hot flashes five to 10 years into menopause, which can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to sleep. Some women also experience moodiness with menopause.

Treatment options. Menopause is an inevitable process that all women experience, but the symptoms can cause discomfort and added stress if not managed. Hot flashes can be mitigated by avoiding spicy foods and hot environments. Staying in cool places or having a portable fan can help deal with a sudden onset of these symptoms. Women also can choose to use hormone replacement therapy, where the lost estrogen and progesterone are taken in pill form. This helps reduce and even eliminates the side effects of menopause, but the National Research Center for Women & Families reports that hormone replacement therapy can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, coronary heart disease and even stroke.