Early menopause, medically referred to premature menopause, is abrupt cessation of ovarian function which takes places much earlier than it is supposed to occur. In general, it affects women under the age of 40 and actually may happen at any age after the first menstruation.
Even though cessation of ovarian function may be spontaneous, premature menopause most commonly develops as a result of certain treatments and medical procedures. First of all, it is a side effect in all women who have undergone surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy). In such case symptoms occur almost instantly due to rapid drop of female hormones. A similar problem is reported in women who have undergone surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). Namely, by removing only the uterus, surgeons may leave both ovaries intact and they will keep on producing female hormones. However, sometimes surgical manipulation in the pelvis causes damage to the blood supply to ovaries which can subsequently interfere with their functioning, triggering menopause much earlier than it should occur. All in all, symptoms in this case do not appear suddenly and are initially not intensive. No matter whether the ovaries are spared or not, hysterectomy itself is a trigger of premature menopause later in a woman’s life.
Radiotherapy of the pelvis and chemotherapy prescribed for certain malignant illnesses are also potential culprits of early menopause. Certain chemotherapeutics are capable of causing early menopause. The dose of these drugs also play an important role in damage to the ovarian function. As for radiotherapy the ovaries can tolerate certain amount of radiation. Anything above the precisely determinate level of radiation inevitably leads to early menopause.
Ovarian dysfunction and finally complete inability to produce female hormones is additionally reported in women who have some chromosome defects and genetic disorders, women with a family history of premature menopause as well as those suffering from autoimmune diseases.
To confirm this medical issue doctors take into consideration prolonged absence of a menstrual periods (amenorrhea longer than 12 months), symptoms of menopause and blood tests which measure the level of female hormones, as well as substances that control their production.
Consequences of premature menopause are practically the same as those associated with timely menopause. Nevertheless, they do occur much earlier and can be a source of serious medical problems. The absence of female hormones, if there is no hormonal substitution, is to blame for a set of gynecological issues such as vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive, loss of bone density and a variety of psychological problems. Mood swings and hot flashes are two more problems these women encounter.
Due to all the mentioned each and every woman facing early menopause should have regular checkups and be recommended optimal treatment, no matter if it is natural or medical (hormonal). By doing so, the symptoms of menopause can be brought under control and potential complications successfully prevented.
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