Causes of Premature Menopause

The signs and symptoms of menopause are unmistakable for most women in the late 40’s and 50’s. A subject not always discussed or understood is premature menopause and its causes. The probable reason for this is because this condition is fairly uncommon and its causes somewhat mysterious to the average woman.

It’s in a woman’s best interests to be very familiar with premature menopause because it could very well happen to you. De-mystifying this condition and being knowledgeable about its symptoms and possible causes goes a long way in alleviating the fear that accompanies uncertainty.

Only two decades ago, menopause was a subject that was not discussed among even friends or family members; it was a private function, and was forbidden conversational material. All that changed in the 1970’s with a single episode of the enormously popular TV sitcom “All in the Family.”

On this show, Edith Bunker not only said the “M” word, but actually discussed her symptoms on public television seen by millions of viewers! “Is it me, or is it hot in here?” is now an acceptable and humorous question by a menopausal woman. However, this is still not the case with premature menopause because it’s not “normal” and could be caused by a serious medical condition.

What Causes Premature Menopause?

The signs and symptoms of premature menopause are the same as those of natural menopause; hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, migraine headaches, mood irritability, weight gain, depression and heart palpitations. The stage of a woman’s life prior to the onset of natural menopause is call “peri-menopause.”

This stage usually begins when a woman is between age 35 and 40. Women will notice a change in their menstrual periods, some breast tenderness, and other mild symptoms as their estrogen level decreases. Natural menopause usually begins when women are in their early to mid-50’s. When a woman has not had a menstrual period for one year, she is said to be post-menopausal and the uncomfortable symptoms disappear.

There are a variety of causes of premature menopause which is defined as total cessation of menstrual periods and depletion of estrogen while the woman is in her 30’s, or even younger. If you’re 32 and are post-menopausal, this can indeed be frightening. In some cases, premature menopause can be hereditary; if your mother had this condition, you could have inherited it through defects on an X chromosome.

Women who drink heavily in their 20’s and 30’s are at higher risk for developing premature menopause. Thus, alcoholic women cause serious disruption in their hormonal levels. Alcoholism is one condition that physicians evaluate when a woman patient shows signs of premature menopause.

Young women who are being treated for cancer by chemotherapy are at higher risk for premature menopause. It’s not the cancer that causes this; it’s the toxic chemotherapy drugs that result in massive biochemical disruption. When chemotherapy is stopped, it isn’t clear whether a woman’s normal hormonal function and menstruation cycles will return.

The symptoms of early menopause and thyroid disease are almost exactly the same. Your physician will test for both conditions so that neither one is inadvertently missed and untreated. One thing that will help your physician determine the exact cause of your symptoms is that the signs of premature menopause are much more severe than in normal-age menopause.

Finally, premature menopause may be caused by autoimmune disorders like AIDS, fibromyalgia and lupus, and diabetes mellitus. If you have any of these conditions and suffer from the symptoms of menopause, be sure to consult with your physician.

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