When we hear the word Menopause, we usually think of older women above the age of 50, since Menopause is a natural occurrence in a woman’s life when she is no longer able to become pregnant. Very rarely do we think of young ladies. But these days, studies have revealed that menopause is not a stage relegated to elderly women alone as more and more young ladies between the ages of 30 to 40 are now reaching menopause. This occurrence in these young ladies is referred to as Early Menopause. Early menopause can occur for a variety of reasons and when it happens, it creates great anxiety in the minds of the women it affects. In this report, City People Fashion Editor, BOLA AKINBOADE brings to you details of these unusual occurrences, causes, symptoms and why it’s becoming more common.
Menopause is a natural occurrence in a woman’s life when she is no longer able to become pregnant. It is a gradual process that starts between the ages of 45 and 55.
However, premature menopause occurs in women between the ages of 30 to 40. This is known as premature ovarian failure and is sometimes called premature ovarian insufficiency. Because premature menopause occur at such an uncommon time in a woman’s life, it may be seen as symptomatic of other conditions. Women with premature ovarian failure have ovaries that aren’t functioning properly. Either they stop producing eggs or no longer produce the hormones needed to ovulate. And these days more and more younger women are being diagnosed with early menopause. This has also been ascertained as one of the increasing rates of infertility in these women. As a result, women who are experiencing infertility or are dealing with menopausal symptoms at a young age no longer have to wonder why.
CAUSES OF EARLY MENOPAUSE
More often than not, doctors are unable to determine a cause for menopause in younger women. This can be very frustrating for women as it makes it difficult to accept and deal with this new stage of life. Sometimes though, there are obvious causes of early menopause, however, factors outside of a woman’s control can lead to early menopause. Some of these factors include lifestyles, genes, hereditary, health reasons amongst others.
Lifestyle plays a dominant role in the cause of occurrence of menopause in women. This is usually as a result of lifestyle choices such as poor nutrition, heavy smoking, heavy drinking and chronic stress to the body.
Autoimmune disorders are responsible for more than 65% of premature ovarian failure cases. With these disorders, the body develops antibodies to its own products, including ovum and menses.
Genetic factors may also be involved in Premature Ovarian failure. Most times, women seem to follow in their mothers' footsteps, entering into menopause early. Some women are just born with fewer eggs. They will also experience premature menopause. When a woman's mother underwent menopause, it’s a good guide to her own genetic predisposition.
Some women are born with irregularities in their X chromosomes, interfering with egg production, hence early menopause. Other women are just born with very few eggs, causing menopause to occur years before it should.
Given that menopause is associated with fewer primary follicles being able to develop and ovulate, it is easy to see why a woman with fewer follicles or damaged eggs which are unable to develop into an ovulatory egg is prone to an earlier menopause.
Infection is also linked with premature menopause. Infections such as the mumps and tuberculosis can infect the ovaries, affecting a woman’s hormonal balance and can damage her eggs.
Menopause can be caused by chemotherapy or radiation for cancer treatments. Chemotherapy and radiation kill cancer cells but, unfortunately, they also kill healthy cells. Hair cells, digestive cells, and ovarian cells are particularly at risk.
If a woman has undergone radiation therapy or chemotherapy, large numbers of eggs can be destroyed. With fewer eggs left, menopause will be earlier than in healthy women.
Surgical menopause involves the conscious decision of forcing women into menopause for specific health reasons. Women who suffer from endometriosis, polyps, or ovarian cancer may have to undergo an oopherectomy (removal of the ovaries) or a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and sometimes ovaries). These surgeries dramatically cut off ovarian function causing estrogen levels to drop suddenly and forcing the woman into menopause. Any surgery to the pelvic area can disrupt blood flow and cause ovarian failure.
Another ovarian disorder, called 'diminished ovarian reserve', is often a preamble of premature ovarian failure if it occurs in woman under the age of 40. In it, a woman may still have reasonably regular periods, but she begins to experience the symptoms of menopause. However, ovarian failure does not necessarily mean that the ovaries have run out of eggs. There may be eggs present, but a woman's body does not respond to the hormonal signals they create.
EARLY MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS
Menopausal symptoms are often more severe in women going through early menopause compared with natural age of menopause because early menopause is often due to illness, surgery, or genetic issues causing a rapid decline in the amount of estrogen (known as "estrogen crash") in the body.
In women who are going to have an early menopause, the first symptom may be some irregularities of menstrual periods or lack of return of periods after stopping the oral contraceptive pill, while for others; it may be difficulty or inability to get pregnant. Sometimes symptoms may fluctuate – sometimes feeling hot, sometimes irritable and anxious or as if having premenstrual symptoms, other times having sore breasts and bloating. Menopausal symptoms may start while the woman is still having menstrual periods; the symptoms becoming more frequent as the periods occur less often. Some women have no symptoms except for the menstrual periods stopping.
Other symptoms common in women include; night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, headaches, joint or muscle pain, vaginal dryness, reduced sex drive (libido), urinary frequency, tiredness and irritability.
Body shape changes are also common, causing you to put on weight around the abdomen. Additionally, water retention and menopause commonly go together.
Menopausal women can experience emotional ups and downs, including anxiety, depression, cravings, and forgetfulness. All of these symptoms are triggered by the fluctuation of hormones in the body during menopause. In particular, estrogen levels reduce dramatically during the onset of menopause, causing a variety of changes in the body's functions. These symptoms are a sign that the ovaries are producing less estrogen.
HOW EARLY MENOPAUSE IS DIAGNOSED?
To diagnose premature menopause, the doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and draw blood to rule out other conditions, such as pregnancy and thyroid disease. There might also be a need to measure the patient estradiol levels. Low levels of estradiol, a form of estrogen, can indicate that the ovaries are starting to fail. When estradiol levels are below 36, it may signal that the woman is in menopause.
However, the most important test used to diagnose premature menopause is a blood test that measures follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH causes the ovaries to produce estrogen. When the ovaries slow down their production of estrogen, the levels of FSH increases. When the FSH levels rise above 30 or 40 mIU/mL, it usually indicates that the woman is in menopause.
Unfortunately, there are no menopause cures. Premature menopause is the result of an underlying process. Once the process has started, it's unlikely to be reversed. Menopause treatment has progressed by leaps and bounds over the years, though. It is suggested that most women who have undergone early or premature menopause seek out hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Menopause symptoms will be very sudden and severe, especially after surgery, and can be lessoned by taking appropriate doses of estrogen. If oral medication is too difficult to take directly after surgery, estrogen patches that release hormones through the skin can be used to help lessen symptoms.
As the body changes, leading a healthy lifestyle is even more important. A body that is in better condition is better prepared to handle not only the physical symptoms of menopause, but the emotional ones as well. The most important lifestyle changes a woman needs are as follows: Quit smoking, Alcohol should be consumed in moderation, if at all; Practice physical exercise a for a minimum of 30 minutes per session, 3 times per week; Do you best to avoid situations you know will induce stress.