For half the population, menopause is something that happens during middle age and is a sign of the end of the reproductive years.
“Menopause is a natural process that occurs in women when their ovaries stop producing eggs, causing the permanent cessation of menstrual periods.” Doctor. Thomas Enyartwith an OB-GYN Orlando Health Physician Associates in Florida.
For most people, this occurs by an average age of 52. Doctor. Stephanie Faubian, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Women’s Health and medical director of the North American Menopause Society. Overall, a typical age range for menopause is 45 and older.
But in some cases, menopause starts at a younger age – and this can sometimes be a problem. According to Faubion, 5% to 7% go through early menopause, while 1% to 2% experience so-called premature menopause at an earlier stage in life.
Speaking to HuffPost, experts revealed what you need to know about going through menopause early.
What is early menopause?
As its name suggests, early menopause occurs when menopause occurs before the natural age. Specifically, Faubion said it tends to occur when menopause begins for people younger than 45. Otherwise there is no difference between late menopause and early menopause, she said.
This is not the same as perimenopause, which refers to the few months or years before menopause begins. During perimenopause, people may begin to notice changes and inconsistencies in their menstrual cycles (along with some other issues) until menopause occurs.
What are the symptoms of early menopause?
“The signs and symptoms of early menopause are similar to those of natural menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood changes, and difficulty sleeping,” Enyart said. Emotional distress, anxiety and depression may also develop.
The only difference is the age at which these symptoms begin, which is under 45 for early menopause and after 45 for “regular” menopause. Doctor. Leah Millheiserclinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford Medicine in California and chief medical officer at telemedicine company Averno.
Additionally, if your periods stop for at least three months when you’re under 45 (and not pregnant), it’s a sign of early menopause and should be checked by a doctor, Faubion said.
She added that paying attention to missing periods is important because some people who go through early menopause don’t have the typical symptoms of night sweats and hot flashes. And without symptoms like these, “there isn’t always a great drive for them to go to the doctor’s office to see what’s going on, but they are at risk in terms of bone, brain and heart. [health] If they don’t use hormone therapy,” she said.
“They may also be at a higher risk of developing certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer,” Enyart said.
Who is at risk of early menopause?
“MMost of the time, we don’t know the cause of early menopause, Faubian said. “So it’s hard to say who is most at risk.”
Although it may seem random, there are certain groups of people who are more likely to experience it. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can induce menopause in some, Millheiser said, and ovary removal also results in menopause. Family history – for example, if your mother, grandmother or sister went through early menopause – you may also be at higher risk.
There are also some other factors to keep in mind.
“If a woman starts menstruating before age 11, she is at a higher risk of early menopause,” Millheiser said.
They said that smokers are likely to experience menopause on average two years earlier than non-smokers. But Faubien said this two-year difference doesn’t necessarily mean that menopause will start before age 45 in all cases.
Additionally, some autoimmune diseases and genetic mutations can result in early menopause, Faubion said.
Early menopause is different from premature menopause.
There are two different categories of menopause that occur earlier than the natural age: early menopause and Premature menopause, also known as premature ovarian insufficiency.
This occurs when menopause occurs in people under the age of 40.Premature menopause, it is “vital that those women receive hormone therapy until the natural age of menopause,” Faubion said.
“These women…are at increased risk of heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis, mood disorders, sexual dysfunction and early mortality,” she said.
Faubion said that by using hormone therapy until the natural age of menopause, you can minimize these types of health issues.
Who is at risk of premature menopause?
“While early menopause is just like ‘Oh, I went through menopause first,'” [with] Premature ovarian insufficiency, is usually one of the reasons someone went through it,” Millheiser said.
It may be due to a medical condition, family history or autoimmune disorder, or it may be chromosomal, she said. ,hypothyroidism Or rheumatoid arthritis could put you at risk,” Millheiser said.
Additionally, people with the chromosomal condition Turner syndrome are at increased risk of developing premature menopause, as well as those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, she said.
“If you’re going through premature ovarian insufficiency, you really should talk to your doctor and try to identify the cause,” Millheiser said.
What are the symptoms of premature menopause?
If your periods stop unexpectedly when you’re under 40 (and not pregnant), it’s a sign you should see a medical professional, Faubion said.
,If a woman is not being hormonally manipulated – so, not on the birth control pill, not an IUD [intrauterine device] In — and missing her periods, that’s not normal,” she said.
Night sweats, hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause are also symptoms of premature menopause. Like early menopause, some people don’t have symptoms at all, Faubion said.
For people under age 40, “there are issues of fertility and family planning that need to be considered. There is protection of bone density, which is extremely important,” she said.
“Its [critical] , That those women use hormone therapy until the natural age of menopause. IIt doesn’t matter whether they have symptoms or not.”
Here’s what to do if you think you’re in early or premature menopause.
If a man thinks he is going through early or premature menopause, he should talk to a doctor.
“TeaThat key is that they see someone who is knowledgeable,” Faubian said. you can go menopause.org To find a practitioner who is certified in menopause management, she added. This can help reduce the chances of a misdiagnosis, which some patients face.
“A lot of therapists don’t [understand menopause]Milheiser said. “And it’s not because they didn’t want to learn about it; This is because the medical field is failing physicians in the United States in terms of awareness of menopause – what it is, how to treat it.
She added that “as a menopause practitioner at a major academic center, I see women who say ‘You’re the fourth doctor I’ve seen for my menopause concerns'” — and these are often patients with typical menopausal symptoms. There are and are not significant comorbidities.
“It’s a common legend,” Millheiser said.
It’s important to start treatment early, and the right medical professional can help connect you with other people who are going through menopause earlier than their natural age – so you feel less alone.