The average age for menopause is 51, give or take a few years. However, there are women who undergo menopause even before they reach 40. This means that women who start experiencing early menopause symptoms will be in their 30s or could even be in their 20s. Early menopause is also known as premature menopause. Very recently, it has been given the name primary ovarian insufficiency, although it has yet to catch on and gain prevalence. The most common term for this condition with so many names is early menopause.
The stages of early menopause are the same as the stages of natural menopause. Even the symptoms will be similar. The only difference with early menopause symptoms is that the women suffering from them are much younger than is normal. Let’s take a look at some of the causes for this rare condition, and what kind of early menopause symptoms you can expect.
Causes of Early Menopause Symptoms
- Chemotherapy can cause early menopause symptoms as the treatment can damage your ovaries and other reproductive organs. 50% of all women who undergo chemotherapy will get early menopause symptoms.
- Exposure to radiation can also cause early menopause symptoms.
- If you have had to have your ovaries removed for whatever reason, early menopause symptoms will manifest.
- Genetics also plays a role in early menopause symptoms. Between 5 and 30% of all women who undergo early menopause symptoms will have a family member who suffers from galactosaemia, familial ovarian failure (FOF), Turner’s syndrome, or congenital adrenal hyperplasia. A genetic connection to these health problems is related to early menopause symptoms, regardless of whether or not you actually have the disease.
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus or Graves disease can also cause early menopause symptoms. 30% of all cases of early menopause are a direct result of autoimmune disorders.
- If your periods have just stopped naturally for no apparent reason – you have not undergone caner treatment or surgery and are otherwise healthy – it is very likely that your early menopause symptoms are due to a rare condition called premature ovarian failure (POF). POF is characterized by malfunctioning ovaries. Perhaps they are not producing enough eggs, perhaps they are not producing enough estrogen, maybe they are no longer receiving signals to produce either.
- In rare cases, the ovaries just stop the production of eggs for no good reason. No underlying cause is found for this condition. But if it happens to you, you will suffer from early menopause symptoms.
- Severe thyroid dysfunction can also cause early menopause symptoms.
Risk Factors For Early Menopause Symptoms
The risk factors can be evaluated on the basis of the causes of early menopause symptoms and certain lifestyle choices.
- Smokers are at higher risk for early menopause symptoms, although the why of it has yet to be understood.
- If your mother or sister had early menopause, it is very likely that you will too. Women usually reach menopause at the same age as their mothers did.
- Living in areas with high levels of environmental toxins and radiation greatly increase your chances of developing early menopause symptoms.
- Obviously, if you are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer you are at very high risk of having early menopause symptoms.
- Any kind of surgery on the ovaries, regardless of whether they were actually taken out or not, can also lead to problems with them which in turn can lead to early menopause symptoms.
- Some research suggests that it is not just ovarian surgery but any kind of pelvic surgery that can raise your risk for early menopause.
- A family history of POF increases your risk for the condition, thus increasing your risk for early menopause symptoms.
- Having thyroid problems may also put you at risk for early menopause symptoms.
- Some medications can reduce the levels of estrogen in your body. This can increase your risk for early menopause symptoms.
- If you have an autoimmune disorder or if it runs in your family, you may get early menopause symptoms.
- As mentioned previously, a family history of some diseases like Turner’s syndrome or galactosaemia will put you at higher risk for early menopause symptoms.
- There is a drug called Tamoxifen that is prescribed to women who are at high risk for breast cancer to prevent the condition. It is also prescribed as part of treatment for breast cancer itself. However, Tamoxifen has also been known to have the unnatural side-effect of causing early menopause symptoms. If you are on this drug, you are at high risk for early menopause.
Early Menopause Symptoms
Just like the symptoms of normal menopause, early menopause symptoms will manifest both physically and emotionally. The severity or indeed even the existence of early menopause symptoms will differ from woman to woman. All you can do is be on the alert and keep an eye out for the early menopause symptoms below.
Physical Symptoms of Early Menopause
- Period issues are the most common of early menopause symptoms. You may have a heavier or lighter flow than is normal for you, your periods will be irregular – sometimes coming after a gap of two to three months and sometimes plaguing you every ten to fifteen days.
- You may experience heart palpitations as part of your early menopause symptoms.
- Let’s not forget those hot flashes and night sweats.
- You will start to gain weight, especially around your middle as you go through early menopause.
- As estrogen stores are lowered, your skin will start to go dry. The dryness may cause your skin to feel itchy or tingle.
- Another symptom of early menopause is vaginal dryness. Expect discomfort while urinating or during sex.
- Your breasts will get tender and start to sag.
- You may lost some control over your bladder and will often experience leaking or you will not be able to hold your urine in for long periods, causing you to run to the bathroom constantly.
- A common early menopause symptom is insomnia or disruptive sleeping patterns.
- You may start to feel aches and pains in your joints or in muscles you didn’t even know you had.
- Headaches are common early menopause symptoms.
- Early menopause symptoms manifest in such embarrassing ways as an increase in the growth of facial hair but loss or thinning of hair on your head. You won’t grow a beard or go bald. But the changes will be noticeable.
- A not so common early menopause symptom is dry mouth.
- Nausea and lightheadedness are other common early menopause symptoms.
- You might experience some bloating as part of your early menopause symptoms.
- Even digestion problems may occur.
- Women going through early menopause often report that their body odor is changing.
Emotional Symptoms of Early Menopause
- General all round moodiness will become part and parcel of your day as you hit early menopause. You will be on an emotional roller-coaster as your hormonal levels fluctuate.
- You may feel very irritable and wan to snap at everyone around you.
- Anxiety and increased levels of stress are also common early menopause symptoms.
- A reduced sex drive is a common early menopause symptom. This may be attributed in part to the vaginal dryness that is common with early menopause, but many women report that they are just not in the mood as often as they were before the early menopause symptoms hit.
- The ‘brain fog’ that is common with women undergoing normal menopause also hits women suffering from early menopause. This symptom is characterized by a feeling of fuzziness, an inability to focus, and a little confusion. It can get very bad in some women and actually lead to pretty extreme memory lapses.
- Early menopause symptoms also affect your energy levels. You will feel fatigue quite often or just not be up to tasks that you performed with ease before. This is sometime attributed to the lack of sleep from insomnia, the other early menopause symptom.
Managing Early Menopause Symptoms
Early menopause symptoms cannot be reversed. But there are some things you can do to reduce the severity of some early menopause symptoms and make others go away. However, there is no 100% remedy for early menopause symptoms. Some of the suggestions below may work for and some might make no difference. The best way to come up with a treatment plan for your early menopause symptoms is to have a frank discussion with your doctor taking into account your medical history and other personal factors.
- Cut back on caffeine, alcohol and smoking. These can greatly reduce the intensity of many early menopause symptoms.
- Drink a cup of herbal tea or have a glass of warm milk before bed to combat insomnia.
- Exercise and eat right. Research has shown that of all the lifestyle changes you can make to battle early menopause symptoms, getting more active and providing your body with correct nutrition are most effective.
- Do Kegel exercises for the strengthening of your pelvic floor to help prevent or minimize little accidents due to loss of bladder control.
- Do not do illicit drugs. Be cautious with pharmaceutical drugs as well, even over-the-counter medications.
- Learn to relax. Stress does nothing but aggravate early menopause symptoms.
- If your early menopause symptoms are particularly severe and are interfering with your daily routine or diminishing the quality of your life, speak to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT may in fact even be recommended by your doctor if you are really young to counteract osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease – both of which you are at greater risk for when you start experiencing early menopause symptoms.
- Some alternative therapies like acupuncture are excellent ways of dealing with early menopause symptoms.
Coping Emotionally With Early Menopause Symptoms
Although treatment for early menopause symptoms is all well and good, the fact still remains that you are suffering from menopause before your time. Early menopause can be devastating, especially if you had not yet started a family or if you were planning on having more children. Not to mention that early menopause symptoms can put a real damper on a young person’s life. It can be very difficult to come to terms with early menopause symptoms and accept that ‘yes, this is happening to me’. Most women go through months of ‘Why me?’ before they make peace with their early menopause symptoms.
The emotional impact of early menopause symptoms is considerable. You may not feel sexually attractive anymore and it can affect your romantic relationships. You may feel old and have severe self-esteem issues; it may cause you to isolate yourself. You may go into deep depression at the thought of not being able to have a family. These are just a few instances; you may be affected in very different ways by your early menopause symptoms.
Speak to your doctor about your emotional state and concerns. Ask her to recommend a psychotherapist or counselor who specializes in early menopause cases. Join a support group – talking to other people who are going through early menopause symptoms like you can be very comforting. You can even participate in online support groups; the forums are a wealth of information about early menopause symptoms and a wonderful way to interact with women from all over the world who are undergoing early menopause symptoms. If you go into depression because of early menopause symptoms, do not be shy to ask your doctor to prescribe a mild anti-depressant. This is a very trying situation you are in and there is no shame in needing and asking for help. Pretty soon, you’ll go from being in complete denial to being the strong one who urges fellow sufferers of early menopause symptoms to hang in there.