Premature menopause (early menopause)
Premature menopause occurs when a woman has her last menstrual period earlier than the 45 to 60 years age range, the accepted age for the onset of normal menopause. The onset of early menopause can be traumatic for the woman and her family.
 Why should I be aware of this?
Most women experience natural menopause, where the natural process of ageing is the cause of their menopause. Most people dismiss early menopause as just stopping of periods. Those who are aware of problems associated with menopause, assume that early menopause is just early onset of these health issues.
Some important facts we need to be aware of
- Stopping of periods may or may not be due to early menopause
- Early menopause might exhibit symptoms of normal menopause
- There is very little awareness among women, people and even some members of medical fraternity on the impact of early menopause on the quality of life the woman and her family.
- Early menopause can be manageed with treatment and care.
 All about premature menopause
Premature menopause is also called "premature ovarian failure" or "POF". POF is menopause that occurs (for any reason) before the age of 40 as a result of lost ovarian function.
 Causes of premature menopause
- Hereditary factors
- Exposure to radiation
- Exposure to chemotherapy
- Some surgical procedures that interrupt the blood supply to ovaries may also be associated with premature menopause.
- Endocrine disorders such as thyroid or pituitary problems and or diabetes.
 Symptoms of premature menopause
- In most cases the only symptom is periods occurring less and less frequently and even irregularly.
- Some women have hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, moodiness, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and hair loss/coarseness, the typical symptoms of menopause.
- Infertility -- Early menopause can result in infertility. This can be traumatic for al women, even for those who have already had children. To most women, even those who have completed their family, it represents a strong sense of loss. Many women with POF struggle with the emotional burden of feeling "old" before their time.
- Loss of estrogen -- Early menopause can result in losing estrogen. This puts puts women at increased risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer's disease, tooth loss, impaired vision, Parkinson's disease and diabetes. The longer women are without the protection of their own estrogen, the greater their risk for serious health consequences of these conditions.
- Early menopause also impacts the affected woman's relationships with husbands and partners.
 What can I do about this?
- Consult a doctor -- Many women in their 20's and 30's whose periods stop take a home pregnancy test and, if it is negative, assume that their period stopped because of stress. While this may in fact be true, it is importnt to consult their gynaecologist.
- Be aware -- Early menopause can be treated and managed.
- Go for promopt intervation -- With prompt intervention and proper management, many of the long-term consequences of early menopause can be prevented or delayed.
- Create more awareness -- There is a need to enhance awareness about the importance of early menopause and that it should be given higher priority in primary care. Dcotors also need to spend more time with women newly diagnosed with early menopause or POF.
- Alternative treatments -- Some of the natural alternative treatments on offer are phytoestrogens, Red Clover, soya, sage and vitamin E and evening primrose.
- Menopause means more than just losing your periods. This is a syndrome with clinical symptoms as well as long-term consequences. An important distinction here is that women who have had a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) but whose ovaries function normally won't have periods, but they are not "in menopause." They will go into menopause naturally when their ovaries cease functioning.
- Perimenopause is different from premature menopause -- Premature menopause occurs when a woman enters menopause before age 40. Perimenopause, on the other hand, is the transitional phase a woman goes into for the 2 to 10 years preceding her natural menopause. During this time she may have normal or irregular periods and one or many of the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, irritability or sleep disturbances.
- Patients with early menopause should be counseled in couples -- together with their partners or husbands.
- Setting up a support group for affected women and their partners would be beneficial. The far reaching emotional fallout of early menopause/POF requires sensitive ongoing care from a menopause specialist.
- IT is advisable to offer affected women psychotherapy rather than anti depressants to treat their depression, resulting from onset of early menopause.
 Common myths
Many feel that premature menopause is not a big deal. Some even joke that life might be better after being free of their cycles. This is far from true. This can represent a strong sense of loss and many women with POF struggle with the emotional burden of feeling "old" before their time.
- 250,000 American women, which represents nearly 3% of women between 15 and 39 are affected by premature menopause. The average age of onset is 27 and there is have no typical menstrual history common to all. Approximately 10 to 15% of females with POF have primary amenorrhea, which means they never had a period on their own.
- Twins are more likely to have a premature menopause than other women.
- Women who survive childhood cancer are more likely to suffer premature menopause.
- 85% woman with a family history of early menopause are likely to have an early menopause and consequently early reproductive failure.
- Premature Menopause
- Premature Menopause
- Interview With Nick Panay
- Premature Menopause: When 'The Change' Comes Too Early