What is premature menopause?
Premature menopause refers to when a woman begins menopause earlier than the age of 40 (as opposed to “early menopause”, which is the onset of menopause between the ages of 40 and 45; menopause usually happens in women aged 45-55).
Symptoms of premature menopause
The symptoms of premature menopause are generally the same as with normal menopause; the key difference is that the symptoms begin to manifest before the age of 40. The principal symptom is that the woman’speriods stop. Preceding the menopause is the perimenopause, in which the periods become less frequent. Other symptoms include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Memory or concentration issues
- Weight gain
- Vaginal pain during intercourse
- Loss of libido
- Anxiety or low mood
Some women who experience premature menopause may be at higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, as they will have to live without oestrogen for longer.
Not being able to have children is another effect of menopause. This and/or the changes happening in the patient’s body can lead to psychological effects such as depression. If you have been experiencing extreme low moods, disinterest in things you once enjoyed, and other symptoms of depression for more than a few weeks, you should see your doctor or a specialist.
What are the causes of premature menopause?
Sometimes, there is no clear reason why a patient undergoes premature menopause, but often it can be attributed to certain factors:
- Genetics – women with a family history are more likely to experience premature menopause.
- Chemotherapy or pelvic radiation treatments for cancer
- Surgery to remove the ovaries
- Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus)
- Autoimmune diseases
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Missing chromosomes
Treatments for premature menopause
Premature menopause is usually treated much the same way as menopause that begins at the normal time – either hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or the combined contraceptive pill. Hormonal replacement treatments may not be suitable for ex-cancer patients.
The doctor will advise the patient on which treatment is best for them, and may recommend lifestyle changes that can help with the symptoms.
Which type of specialist treats premature menopause?
Gynaecologists, genitourinary specialists and endocrinologists all treat premature menopause.