Early Menopause Due to Premature and Unexpected Ovarian Failure
Menopause in women younger than 40 years of age is called premature menopause. If this happens spontaneously it is called premature ovarian failure. Premature ovarian failure affects about 1 in a 100 women. Around 8 per 100 women have premature menopause due to other causes such as chemotherapy or surgery. Menopause occurring between 40-45 years of age is called early menopause, affecting approximately 5% of women. Menopause can occur spontaneously or can be a result of chemotherapy (See AMS information sheet:- Early Menopause Due to Chemotherapy) or ovarian surgery. There is no evidence that early menopause is brought on by the use of oral contraceptives, fertility drugs or artificial hormones in the environment. However, smoking or a family history of early menopause is associated with an earlier onset of menopause. Diagnosis of early ovarian failure often has long term physical and psychological consequences, so women may need emotional support and ongoing medical follow-up.
Early Menopause due to Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is usually administered as part of cancer treatment but may also be given to women with severe connective tissue disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosis or kidney disease such as Wegener’s granulomatosis. Survival rates for many cancers in women of reproductive age are increasing. However, many treatments used to combat the disease carry a substantial risk for future infertility. Chemotherapy is toxic to the ovaries causing loss of eggs and destruction of the supporting ovarian tissue. This may cause temporary cessation of menstrual periods or early menopause which can develop quickly or gradually.
Menopause means the final menstrual period. The average age of menopause is around 51 years, but most women will start to notice menopausal symptoms from around 47 years. This may be noticed as the onset of hot flushes, night sweats or vaginal dryness or a change in menstrual periods to more infrequent and sometimes heavier menstrual bleeding (1). Removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) before the normal menopause is called “surgical menopause”.
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Content updated March 2014