What is Premature Menopause?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Menopause onset that occurs before a woman turns 40 years old is a condition known as premature menopause. Certain conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, and medical treatment procedures may contribute to the early onset of menopausal symptoms. Treatment for this condition is consistent with methods used for managing traditional menopause.

Women with early-onset menopause are sometimes said to have a condition known as premature ovarian failure, however, this is only partially true. Individuals with premature menopause stop having a monthly menstrual cycle the same as someone going through traditional menopause. Those diagnosed with premature ovarian failure may have periodic menstrual cycles for several years before they stop completely. Despite the difference associated with a woman's menstrual cycle, the two conditions possess identical symptoms, testing procedures for diagnosis, and treatment.

A woman's ovaries contain numerous follicles that house eggs for reproduction. During menstruation, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) work together to promote follicle maturation, egg release, and estrogen production. For women in their thirties, estrogen production begins to diminish. Individuals with follicle interruption, as is sometimes associated with early-onset menopause and premature ovarian failure, experience an accentuated decrease in estrogen production and elevated FSH levels in the bloodstream, as found in menopausal women.


It has been asserted that several factors may contribute to the interruption of proper follicle function. Women with an autoimmune disease may experience follicle disruption, a condition that occurs when the body's antibodies attack healthy ovarian tissue and impair estrogen production. Genetics and exposure to certain toxins may contribute to follicle depletion, which takes place when the follicles do not respond appropriately to hormonal cues.

There are several elements that may impair follicle function and contribute to the development of early-onset menopause. Women who have had a hysterectomy, undergone chemo or radiation therapies, or who have been diagnosed with primary ovarian insufficiency, also known as premature ovarian failure, are likely candidates for being diagnosed with premature menopause. Individuals whose immediate female relatives, such as mother or sister, have experienced early-onset menopause may be at an increased risk for also developing symptoms.

Women entering premature menopause may experience a variety of physical and emotional signs. Hot flashes, irritability and mood swings, and irregular periods may be the earliest symptoms indicating premature menopause. Those who are pre-menopausal may notice increased heaviness or weight accumulation through their midsection and experience thinning hair. Additional signs of premature menopause may include vaginal dryness, a decreased sex drive, and insomnia.

Early-onset menopause may be diagnosed after an initial physical examination and additional tests have been performed to rule out other potential conditions. Women experiencing symptoms that may indicate early-onset menopause may undergo blood tests to rule out pregnancy and thyroid disease. Additional testing may be ordered to evaluate estradiol, which is a form of estrogen, and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels.

Due to decreased estrogen production, women with early-onset menopause may be at an increased risk for developing other medical conditions, such as ovarian cancer. Individuals with premature menopause may be more prone to developing additional medical conditions like osteoporosis, cataracts, and periodontal disease. Above all, lowered estrogen levels play a pivotal role in a woman's overall health, and without the benefits of natural estrogen she is at risk for health issues directly associated with menopause.

Like traditional menopause, treatment for premature menopause centers on alleviating associated symptoms and preventing the onset of potential chronic conditions, such as osteoporosis. Women diagnosed with early-onset menopause may utilize the employment of hormone therapy, which involves the administration of low-dose synthetic estrogen. Some women may be prescribed low-dose antidepressants to aid with easing the emotional effects of early-onset menopause. Additional treatments to alleviate symptoms may include the use of vaginal estrogen and bisphosphonate medications to prevent bone loss. Women should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of treatment prior to establishing a therapy regimen.



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