Symptoms, Causes, Risks & Treatment of Premature Menopause
Menopause is a condition where a woman experiences the cessation of her menstrual cycle before the age of 40. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 5% of women experience early menopause naturally in the USA. It can be accompanied by a range of physical, emotional, and hormonal changes, presenting unique challenges for those experiencing it. In this blog, we will dive into the causes behind premature menopause and the associated health risks and explore treatments such as Premarin tablets to help women get through this complex phase of life.
What Is Premature Menopause?
In biology, menopause refers to the loss of reproductive capability of a woman. A natural or artificial menopause that occurs between the ages of 40 and 45 is known as an early or premature menopause. As per the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, the average age of “natural” menopause in the U.S. is 51. The onset of menopause before this age is “premature” menopause. This condition leads to a decline in estrogen levels, which can result in various symptoms similar to those experienced during natural menopause. Such as:
- One of the early signs is irregular or missed menstrual periods. Women with premature menopause may experience changes in the frequency and regularity of their menstrual cycles.
- Women with premature menopause may experience hot flashes, which are sudden and intense feelings of heat, often accompanied by sweating and flushing.
- A decrease in estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
- Hormonal fluctuations can impact mood, leading to irritability, anxiety, or depression.
- Changes in hormone levels can affect sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or disrupted sleep.
- A decline in estrogen levels may result in a decreased interest in sexual activity.
- Some women may experience increased fatigue and a general sense of low energy.
- There may be cognitive changes such as difficulty concentrating or memory issues.
What Factors Cause Premature Menopause?
An early or premature menopause may occur without any apparent cause. However, certain factors may increase your risk in some cases. Some surgeries, medicines, or health conditions may cause menopause to occur earlier than usual. Here are the causes:
It is defined as the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own tissues and can have unexpected repercussions on various bodily functions. In some cases, the immune response may extend its impact to the ovaries, affecting the normal maturation and growth of egg cells within ovarian follicles. While such occurrences are relatively rare, studies have highlighted connections between autoimmune diseases and the onset of premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) or premature menopause.
For example- Research published in 2022 in Crohn’s & Colitis 360 shed light on the potential influence of autoimmune conditions like irritable bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, on the age of menopause. The study revealed that individuals with IBD experienced menopause, on average, at the age of 50, slightly earlier than the general population.
Certain Health Conditions
Premature or early menopause may be caused by certain health conditions. HIV, a sexually transmitted infection, for example, can cause menopause earlier than expected if left untreated. HIV kills CD4 cells, making HIV-positive people vulnerable to severe illnesses. Low CD4 cell counts increase the risk of early menopause. A CD4 cell is a type of white blood cell that fights infection.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, can cause premature or early menopause. It is a complicated and debilitating medical condition described by continuous and unexplained fatigue that is not relieved by rest. There are several symptoms associated with CFS, including:
- A feeling of extreme fatigue
- Aches in your muscles and joints
- Loss of memory
- Having headaches
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Flu-like symptoms
A study was published in the Menopause (Journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in 2015. It found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome report premature menopause at a mean age of 38.5 more often than those without the health condition. The link between chronic fatigue syndrome and early menopause may help explain why CFS is two to four times more common in women than in men and is most prevalent in women in their 40s.
Chemotherapy or Radiation Treatments
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can impact the genetic material within egg cells, potentially leading to premature or early menopause. The extent of damage depends on factors like the type of drug, radiation dose, age at the time of treatment, and the specific area of the body undergoing treatment. While some individuals may not immediately experience symptoms of premature menopause, others may notice changes years after cancer treatment.
A cohort study was published in the journal “Blood” in the year 2008. It comprised 518 female Hodgkin lymphoma ( cancer in the lymphatic system) survivors, aged 14 to 40 years at treatment between 1965 and 1995. The study aimed to assess the impact of different treatment modalities on the risk of premature menopause. After a median follow-up of 9.4 years, 97 women experienced premature menopause before the age of 40.
Notably, the use of chemotherapy was linked to a significant 12.3 times increase in the risk of premature menopause compared to those who received radiotherapy alone. These findings underscore the potential long-term consequences of chemotherapy on premature menopause and overall reproductive health.
It can play a role in premature menopause, contributing to a condition known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) or premature ovarian failure. Here are some chromosomal abnormalities associated with premature menopause:
- Turner syndrome is a genetic condition in which a female is born with only one X chromosome or is missing part of one X chromosome. Women with Turner syndrome commonly experience ovarian dysfunction, leading to premature menopause or infertility.
- Fragile X syndrome is an inherited genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the FMR1 gene on the X chromosome. While it primarily affects intellectual and developmental abilities, women with Fragile X may also experience premature ovarian failure.
- Triple X syndrome, involving the presence of extra X chromosomes, can impact reproductive function in women. While not always directly linked to premature menopause, these abnormalities may contribute to fertility challenges.
A study published in the Middle East Fertility Society Journal in January 2022 identified Turner syndrome as one of the conditions leading to premature menopause. The ovaries of women with Turner syndrome don’t function normally, which results in early menopause.
Early Age at First Period
Menarche or first period at an early age can have implications for the reproductive health of women later in life, including the potential risk of premature menopause. A study published in 2017 in the Human Reproduction Journal found that early menopause was associated with early period age—before 11 years old—and never being pregnant. Several other factors impacting reproduction are also related to early age at the first period, such as:
- Irregular periods
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Endometriosis (a medical disorder where tissue identical to the lining of the uterus, known as endometrium, extends outside the uterus)
Menopause occurs earlier than usual when the ovaries or uterus are surgically removed. In the case of a bilateral oophorectomy, in which the ovaries are removed, your menstrual cycle will cease. In the absence of ovaries, your body will make less estrogen as compared to normal. If you have had a bilateral oophorectomy, you may experience symptoms that imitate menopause, such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and low sexual desire. A hysterectomy, on the other hand, removes the uterus so that you won’t have menstruation anymore. Although some people no longer get a menstrual cycle, they may still suffer from the related symptoms (like sore breasts or other pre-menopausal symptoms).
A PROOF (Prospective Research on Ovarian Function) study was conducted in the year 2016. The study found that females who had ovary-sparing hysterectomies underwent menopause 1.9 years earlier than those who had their ovaries and other reproductive organs intact.
Can Early Menopause Cause Health Problems?
Early menopause can have several long-term health consequences due to the hormonal changes that occur. When a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs, the levels of estrogen and progesterone decline in her body. Here’s an explanation of these health risks:
- Cardiovascular Disease: Estrogen plays a protective role in maintaining cardiovascular health. Its decline during menopause can lead to unfavorable changes in cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure, and changes in blood vessel function. These factors contribute to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes.
- Depression: Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a crucial role in mood regulation. The hormonal changes, combined with other factors like aging and life stress, can increase the risk of developing depression during and after menopause.
- Neurological Problems: Estrogen also has neuroprotective effects on the brain, influencing cognition and maintaining the health of nerve cells. Early menopause may be associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (a neurodegenerative disease that leads to memory loss). It’s the hormonal changes during menopause that contribute to memory problems and difficulties with concentration.
- Sexual Dysfunction: Declining estrogen levels can lead to changes in vaginal tissues and reduced lubrication, causing discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse. Additionally, hormonal changes may affect libido, leading to a decrease in sexual desire. These factors can contribute to sexual dysfunction and impact the quality of life for women experiencing early menopause.
- Osteoporosis: Estrogen plays a crucial role in preserving bone density. A rapid decline in estrogen levels during menopause can result in increased bone loss and a higher risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease described by weakened and porous bones, making individuals more vulnerable to fractures.
How Is Menopause Diagnosed?
Many women can tell when they’ve started the menopausal transition by the signs and symptoms of menopause. Further evaluation may be recommended in some cases.
In most cases, menopause can be diagnosed without testing. Under certain circumstances, your doctor may recommend blood tests to check your levels of:
- FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) increases as menopause progresses, and estradiol levels decrease. Both are key reproductive hormones found in females.
- Menopause symptoms can be similar to those caused by hypothyroidism, which produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
FSH can be measured in your urine at home using over-the-counter test kits. You may be in perimenopause or menopause if your FSH levels are elevated. Home FSH test kits, however, cannot really tell you whether you’re in a stage of menopause since the levels fluctuate during your menstrual cycle.
How Does Premarin Help Manage Premature Menopause?
Premarin is a medication that contains conjugated estrogens, which are a mixture of estrogen hormones derived from the urine of pregnant mares (horses). Premarin tablets are available in various strengths, like 0.3 mg, 0.625 mg, 0.9 mg, and 1.25 mg. Here’s how it helps manage early menopause:
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Early menopause is characterized by a premature decline in estrogen levels, leading to symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and bone loss. Premarin .625 tablet, being a form of estrogen replacement therapy, provides the body with exogenous estrogen to alleviate these symptoms.
- Relief of Vasomotor Symptoms: One of the most common and bothersome symptoms of early menopause is vasomotor symptoms, which include hot flashes and night sweats. Estrogen replacement, as provided by Premarin, can help regulate body temperature and reduce the frequency and intensity of these symptoms.
- Improvement of Vaginal Health: Declining estrogen levels during menopause can lead to changes in the vaginal tissues, causing dryness, thinning, and irritation. Premarin can help improve vaginal health by restoring moisture, increasing blood flow, and promoting the thickness of the vaginal lining.
- Prevention of Osteoporosis: Estrogen performs a vital role in maintaining bone density. Early menopause is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis due to the rapid decline in estrogen levels. Premarin .625 tablet, by providing exogenous estrogen, can help prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures.
- Mood Stabilization: Hormonal fluctuations during early menopause can contribute to mood swings and irritability. Estrogen replacement therapy, including Premarin, may help stabilize mood and improve overall emotional well-being. If you want to manage your early menopausal symptoms, you can buy Premarin tablets online at the best Canadian online pharmacy, Polar Bear Meds, at discounted prices.
Premature menopause poses unique challenges to women, affecting their physical and emotional well-being. Factors such as autoimmune diseases, certain health conditions, chemotherapy, chromosomal abnormalities, early age at first period, and surgeries can contribute to early menopause. This condition comes with health risks like cardiovascular diseases, depression, neurological problems, sexual dysfunction, and osteoporosis. Premarin tablets, containing estrogen hormones, offer relief by replacing lost hormones, alleviating symptoms, and preventing complications. However, the use of hormone replacement therapy should be personalized and carefully monitored, considering potential risks.