Is premature menopause bad? How common is premature menopause?


I understand the changes in the menopausal years and the common menopausal symptoms. But I’d like to return to an earlier mention of surgical menopause. What is that?

First, let us say that about 9 percent of women experience menopause before the age of 40. This situation is known as premature menopause. Surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) which results in what is called surgical menopause, or artificial menopause is the most frequent cause of premature menopause.Without ovaries, your body no longer produces estradiol, and menopause immediately begins.
In the past, an oophorectomy was usually done along with a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus). However, the practice is less common today, according to Love. Either the ovaries are left intact or only one ovary is removed.

Why the switch in medical practice?

Your ovaries produce large amounts of estradiol during your reproductive years and smaller but important amounts of other estrogens for 10 to 20 years after menopause. Medical science is only just beginning to understand how valuable these other, nonestradiol estrogens can be in the postmenopausal years.

Are menopausal symptoms severe with surgical menopause?

They can be. If your ovaries are still producing estradiol at the time they are surgically removed (and they probably are if you are under age 45), you will probably experience severe menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. These symptoms often are more severe than those that accompany a natural, nonsurgical menopause because of the suddenness of the removal of the ovaries, writes Wulf H. Utian, M.D., in Managing Your Menopause. Generally, the more abrupt the drop in estrogen levels, the more intense the symptoms of menopause.

If surgical removal of the ovaries is the most common cause of early menopause, what are the other causes?

Smoking can bring on early menopause, although doctors are not sure why. Utian points to two current theories: that some substance in cigarette smoke destroys estrogen, and that the nicotine in cigarette smoke reduces the blood supply to the ovaries and causes them to prematurely fail.

Are there other causes of early menopause?

Radiation therapy to treat pelvic cancer destroys the ovaries. Chemical therapy, or chemotherapy, to treat other cancers (such as breast cancer) can sometimes destroy egg follicles or ovaries.
Other theories about the cause of early menopause include the presence of an autoimmune disorder, in which the body produces antibodies that disturb the ovaries or destroy ovarian tissue. As mentioned earlier, genetics may also play a role. If your mother had an early menopause, you may have one, too.

It may also be that some women are born with fewer egg follicles or that they have some condition that causes the body to stop producing estrogen while they are still young.


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