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What You Need To Know About Premature Menopause

When a woman ages, a lot of changes happen to her body. One of the major changes is the cessation of her menstrual period, called menopause. In the U.S., 51 is the average age of onset for “natural” menopause.

There are times, though, that menopause occurs earlier. Some women experience it before the age of 40. Premature menopause can either be natural or induced.

Natural premature menopause can be because of an illness or genetics. If your family has a history of autoimmune disorders like hypothyroidism, lupus or Graves' disease, you have a higher risk of going through premature menopause.

Induced premature menopause is caused by a medical procedure, such as surgical removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy or radiation.

The symptoms for menopause, whether premature or not, are the following:

  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Heavier or lighter periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Incontinence
  • Dry skin, eyes or mouth
  • Emotional changes
  • Sleeplessness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Unsuccessfully at becoming pregnant after trying for one year

Before checking for menopause, a doctor will most likely conduct a physical and blood exam to rule out other possible conditions, such as pregnancy or thyroid disease.

A test to measure estradiol levels may be ordered by a doctor. Low estradiol levels, such as below 30, may signal premature menopause.

The most important test that can determine menopause is a blood test to measure follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). When production of estrogen in the ovaries slows down, the levels of FSH increase. When FSH levels rise above 40mlU/mL, it indicates that a woman is in menopause.

Premature menopause, along with emotional issues that arise from it, is treated through methods similar to natural menopause. Hormone therapy is commonly used along with other treatments. Treatments are customized depending on a woman's health condition and are aimed at alleviating distressing or uncomfortable symptoms.

But there is no treatment that can prevent or reverse premature menopause.