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Premature Menopause: Risk Factors and Treatment


Premature menopause is a rare condition that can be devastating for young women, especially if pregnancy is desired. We will be discussing premature menopause, its symptoms, and its treatment.



What Is Premature Menopause?


On average, women in the United States go through menopause at age 51. When women have not had a period for 12 months, they have gone through menopause. Medically speaking, premature menopause is defined as menopause occurring in women under the age of 40. Premature menopause is rare, affecting approximately 1% of women.


It is important to note that premature menopause differs from premature ovarian insufficiency, although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. With primary ovarian insufficiency, there is a chance that your periods will return. With premature menopause, women lose the ability to get pregnant.


What Causes Premature Menopause?


There are several factors that may increase your risk for premature menopause. First, women with a family history of premature menopause may be more likely to receive this diagnosis. Additionally, surgical treatment, such as hysterectomy with removal of ovaries, will cause premature menopause. Chemotherapy and pelvic radiation for cancer are additional known causes of premature menopause. Some diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, as well as chromosomal issues, may lead to premature menopause. Smoking also increases the risk of premature menopause. For some women, the cause of premature menopause is unknown.


What Are the Signs of Premature Menopause?


Women who experience premature menopause often experience the same symptoms as older women who experience natural menopause. These symptoms include irregular or missed periods, change in amount of menstrual flow and hot flashes.


How Is Premature Menopause Diagnosed?


Your physician will likely perform a physical examination and order laboratory testing, including evaluation of hormone levels.


How Do I Treat Premature Menopause?


Premature menopause is managed with the same treatment as prescribed for women who undergo menopause at an older age. For some women, premature menopause can also have emotional effects, especially if pregnancy is desired. In these cases, referral to a mental health provider may help manage these feelings.


Takeaway Message:

Premature menopause occurs in patients who are younger than 40 and is experienced by 1% of women. There are several factors which can contribute to premature menopause, including autoimmune diseases and cancer treatment. Women with a family history of premature menopause or other risk factors should be encouraged to discuss their concerns with their physician.

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