Premature ovarian failure and Early menopause are serious conditions that can adversely affect women from all walks of life, and can be extremely hard to cope with or even be debilitating in some cases.
What is Early menopause and Premature ovarian failure?
Natural or normal menopause occurs when the ovaries stop supplying a woman with eggs – usually at the age of 51 (Wikipedia). Dr Andrea Stephens, an obstetrician and gynaecologist with a special interest in menopause-related health issues, says in XX Files that Premature ovarian failure occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop functioning before the age of 40, whereas Early menopause will rear its head about 5 to 10 years earlier than the normal menopausal age – from the age of 40 to 45.
According to WebMD, Premature ovarian failure may develop as early as the teen years, or the problem may even be evident from birth.
A more accurate, but less commonly known, term for Premature ovarian failure is Premature ovarian insufficiency, as some women suffering from this may still be able to conceive. It is also called Premature menopause, but shouldn’t be confused with Early menopause.
Causes of Early menopause and Premature ovarian failure
Causes for these two conditions can include “… autoimmune disorders, the surgical removal of ovaries or chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer. Other times, a woman may have family members who went through early menopause or premature ovarian failure, or the cause simply may be unknown,” says Dr Stephens.
More causes include smoking, tuberculosis of the genital tract, genetic disorders, enzyme defects, induction of multiple ovulation in infertility and prolonged Gonadatrophin Releasing Hormone therapy.
Symptoms to look out for
It has been estimated that by the age of 40, Premature ovarian failure affects around 1% of the population, and these women suffer more severe symptoms than what is found in natural menopausal women (Wikipedia).
Look out for the following:
– irregular or no periods
– hot flashes
– night sweats
– vaginal dryness
– low sex drive
– trouble sleeping
– other natural menopausal symptoms.
Health implications of these conditions
Women with these conditions may suffer from heart implications. “When the ovaries stop functioning early, it causes changes in cholesterol that can make a women more susceptible to heart attacks, stroke or metabolic syndrome,” according to Dr Stephens.
Furthermore, Dr Stephens says that women with Early menopause or Premature ovarian failure are five times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than women at the same age without menopause. The reason for this is the low levels of estrogen.
Infertility is also a result of Premature ovarian failure, and is widely documented. More implications include hypothyroidism in the form of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Addison’s disease and other autoimmune disorders (Wikipedia).
How do I manage these conditions?
Consult your doctor and work with him to address all your concerns. You should be properly evaluated, which entails a hormone level check, tests for autoimmune diseases and cholesterol. Hypertension or high blood pressure should also receive attention.
Dr Stephens is of meaning that, “Unlike with later onset of menopause, low-dose hormone therapy through age 50 is advised to minimise risks to heart and bone health, without the increased risk of breast cancer that pertains to starting hormone use above age 50.”
Lifestyle changes are a must: Follow a diet suited to promote heart health, bone density and weight management. Dr Stephens also advises that yoga, mindfulness, climate control and new non-hormonal choices, might be of value.