Causes of Premature Menopause
Premature menopause is menopause that happens before the age of 40 — whether
it is natural or induced. Women who enter menopause early get symptoms similar
to those of natural menopause, like hot flashes, emotional problems, vaginal
dryness, and decreased sex drive. For some women with early menopause, these
symptoms are severe. Also, women who have early menopause tend to get weaker
bones faster than women who enter menopause later in life. This raises their
chances of getting osteoporosis and breaking a bone. Premature menopause can
happen for these reasons.
Chromosome defects. Defects in the chromosomes can cause
premature menopause. For example, women with Turner's syndrome are born without
a second X chromosome or born without part of the chromosome. The ovaries don't
form normally, and early menopause results.
Genetics. Women with a family history of premature
menopause are more likely to have early menopause themselves.
Autoimmune diseases. The body's immune system, which
normally fights off diseases, mistakenly attacks a part of its own reproductive
system. This hurts the ovaries and prevents them from making female hormones.
Thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis are two diseases in which this can
Surgery to Remove the Ovaries. Surgical removal of both
ovaries, also called a bilateral oophorectomy, puts a woman into menopause
right away. She will no longer have periods, and hormones decline rapidly. She
may have menopausal symptoms right away, like hot flashes and diminished sexual
desire. Women who have a hysterectomy, but have their ovaries left in place,
will not have induced menopause because their ovaries will continue to make
hormones. But because their uterus is removed, they no longer have their
periods and cannot get pregnant. They might have hot flashes since the surgery
can sometimes disturb the blood supply to the ovaries. Later on, they might
have natural menopause a year or two earlier than expected.
Chemotherapy or Pelvic Radiation Treatments for Cancer.
Cancer chemotherapy or pelvic radiation therapy for reproductive system cancers
can cause ovarian damage. Women may stop getting their periods, have fertility
problems, or lose their fertility. This can happen right away or take several
months. With cancer treatment, the chances of going into menopause depend on
the type of chemotherapy used, how much was used, and the age of the woman when
she gets treatment. The younger a woman is, the less likely she will go into
How to Find Out if You Have Premature Menopause
Your doctor will ask you if you've had changes typical of menopause, like
hot flashes, irregular periods, sleep problems, and vaginal dryness. Normally,
menopause is confirmed when a woman hasn't had her period for 12 months in a
However, with certain types of premature menopause, these signs may not be
enough for a diagnosis. A blood test that measures follicle-stimulating hormone
(FSH) can be done. Your ovaries use this hormone to make estrogen. FSH levels
rise when the ovaries stop making estrogen. When FSH levels are higher than
normal, you've reached menopause. However, your estrogen levels vary daily, so
you may need this test more than once to know for sure.
You may also have a test for levels of estradiol (a type of estrogen) and
luetinizing hormone (LH). Estradiol levels fall when the ovaries fail. Levels
lower than normal are a sign of menopause. LH is a hormone that triggers
ovulation. If you test above normal levels, you've gone through menopause.