If you started menstruating earlier than your peers, you may be wondering if that early menstruation will mean an equally early experience with menopause. Early menopause is common, but what is it, what causes it and what, if anything, does it have to do with early menstruation?
According to WebMD, the average age of menopause is 51, and menopause that occurs earlier is considered premature or early menopause. In some cases, women may experience the early symptoms of menopause as early as 40, while others will become menopausal in their mid to late 40s.
Why You May Experience Early or Premature Menopause
There are a number of reasons why a woman might experience premature or early menopause, including genetic factors. The presence of the X permutation remains one of the biggest standard risk factors for early menopause, as it causes a diminishment in ovarian reserve.
Another risk factor for premature or early menopause is a history of cancer that was treated with gonadotoxic therapy or irradiation. These treatments have been shown to have an effect on menopause, and they can trigger early menopause in cancer survivors.
Early menopause is also associated with smoking, so women who smoke are at increased risk. Previous ovarian surgery is a risk factor as well, and the removal of both ovaries will trigger surgical menopause. Other risk factors for early menopause include genetic conditions like Turner syndrome, and a family history of premature menopause.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause, both normal and premature, has a number of distinctive signs and symptoms. Perhaps the most obvious sign of menopause is irregular vaginal bleeding, and any change in your cycle should trigger a conversation with your doctor or gynecologist. Changes in vaginal bleeding could be a sign of early menopause, or a symptom of something more serious.
Women who are experiencing menopause may also experience an increased risk of urinary tract infections, as well as changes in urination. These urinary changes may include the need to urinate more frequently, a sudden strong urge to urinate, or urinary incontinence.
Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms
Not all the signs of menopause are physical, and its early onset can also cause emotional and cognitive changes. These emotional signs of menopause can include tiredness and fatigue, problems with memory, irritability and sudden changes in mood.
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Menopausal changes can be perfectly normal, even when they occur prematurely, but some of the signs and symptoms of early menopause are also associated with more serious conditions, like ovarian cancer. The best way to rule out these dangerous conditions is to get checked out by your family doctor or gynecologist. Only a medical professional can determine if the symptoms you are seeing are the natural result of aging and hormonal changes or something more troubling.
Although we cannot yet determine just when it will occur, menopause is a natural part of every woman’s life. Regardless of when you first began to menstruate, it is important to look out for the warning signs of premature or early menopause.
These days, the medical community knows more about premature menopause, including its symptoms and risk factors. Doctors may look at several factors, including basal antral follicle counts, which involve counting the number of egg follicles on a pelvic ultrasound and reviewing routine blood work to assess reproductive capacity. By working together with your doctor, you can maintain your good health and make it through the menopausal process, no matter when it occurs.