Menopause No Longer a 40s Issue! Know Why?

 It's well-known that most women enter menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. However, there's an alarming trend that can't be ignored: early menopause is becoming increasingly common among young women. This isn't just a slight shift; it's a significant change that demands our attention.

Early menopause, which typically starts before the age of 45, can profoundly impact a woman's health and well-being. Even more concerning is premature ovarian insufficiency or premature menopause, occurring before age 40. This isn't just about the end of fertility—early menopause brings with it a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and mental health issues.

Before delving into what causes early menopause, let’s explore what is menopause and the biological mechanism behind it

Menopause is more than just the end of menstruation; it's a significant change in a woman's life when the ovaries stop producing eggs, leading to low estrogen levels1. Estrogen, the hormone controlling the reproductive cycle, diminishes, marking a new phase in a woman's health journey. This is marked by symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, changes in sexual desire, vaginal dryness, and many more.

Now, imagine dealing with the intense symptoms of menopause—hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, trouble sleeping and more—years or even decades before you expect them. It can start as soon as irregular periods begin, which can include spotting, heavy bleeding, periods lasting longer than a week, and a longer gap between periods. If you experience these symptoms, don't brush them off. Consult your doctor to rule out other potential health issues.

But what causes early menopause? Here are some of the more common reasons:

Family history: Women who have a family history of premature or early menopause are usually more likely to have premature or early menopause. 

Smoking: Recent reports suggest that women who smoke are more likely to reach menopause around two years before non-smokers. These women may also get more severe menopause symptoms2.       

Pelvic radiation treatments or chemotherapy for cancer: These may damage the ovaries and cause menstruation to stop for a while or, in other cases, may also stop it forever. Women may have trouble conceiving or getting pregnant again. However, not all women who have radiation or chemotherapy experience early menopause. The younger a woman is at the time of radiation or chemotherapy, the less likely she is to experience menopause. 

Ovary removal surgeries: Surgical removal of both ovaries may lead to menopausal symptoms almost immediately. After the surgery, a woman’s periods will stop and her hormonal levels will also drop quickly3. She may experience strong menopausal symptoms like less sexual desire and hot flashes.

Certain health conditions: Early menopause may be triggered by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease. Although this is rare, the body’s immune system, which usually fights off diseases, may, in some cases, mistakenly attack the ovaries and prevent them from making hormones. 

HIV-AIDS: In women whose HIV infection is not controlled well with medicines may experience early menopause4. For example, HIV-infected women may often have more severe hot flashes when compared to women without this infection.            

Chronic fatigue syndrome: Women suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome have severe muscle and joint pain, extreme tiredness, weakness, headache, inadequate sleep, and memory loss, as well as other symptoms5 . Many studies have found that women suffering from this condition are more likely to have premature or early menopause. 

Missing chromosomes: In many cases, women born with problems with chromosomes or missing chromosomes can experience menopause early. For instance, women with Turner syndrome are born without all or part of one X chromosome. Thus, their ovaries do not form normally during birth and their menstrual cycles and their time of menopause may often be unusual or abnormal. 

Although it is not possible to prevent menopause from happening, women can take certain actions to help ease their symptoms. For example, exercising regularly, having a healthy diet and maintaining a good overall lifestyle can help manage menopause symptoms well. In an enlightening segment on DocTube, Dr. Vishnu Vandana imparted her expert guidance on women's self-care during this pivotal phase of life6. Stressing the significance of dietary choices, she underscored the necessity of adopting a balanced and nutritious diet, abundant in fibre, alongside maintaining optimal hydration levels

Ready to take charge and conquer early menopause with knowledge and lifestyle adjustments?


How serious is early menopause?

Early menopause is a serious issue as women with premature or early menopause have low estrogen levels and this increases long-term health risks of heart disease and osteoporosis.

Is it normal for a woman to bleed after menopause?

Bleeding after menopause is not normal and can often be a symptom of polyps, vaginal dryness or other significant changes in the reproductive system. In some cases, bleeding after menopause can be a symptom of uterine cancer.

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