Premature menopause develops before age 40. Sometimes, it occurs naturally; other times, it is caused by things like ovarian surgery or cancer treatments. Diagnosing the condition begins with a review of symptoms; however, in some cases, blood tests that check the levels of specific hormones in the body may be necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.
The term "premature menopause" is used to refer to menopause that occurs before the age of 40, whether it's 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, these symptoms are severe. Also, women who experience premature menopause tend to get weaker bones faster than women who enter menopause later in life. This increases their chances of getting osteoporosis and breaking a bone.
Premature menopause can be caused by a few different things, including:
- Chromosome defects
- Autoimmune diseases
- Surgery to remove ovaries
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
Defects in the chromosomes can cause premature menopause. For example, women with Turner's syndrome are born without a second X chromosome or without part of the chromosome. The ovaries don't form normally, and early menopause is often the result.
Women with a family history of premature menopause are more likely to experience it themselves.
In someone with an autoimmune disease, the immune system (which normally fights off diseases) mistakenly attacks a part of the body's own reproductive system. This hurts the ovaries and prevents them from making female hormones. This can happen in a few different diseases, including thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis.