Although most women experience menopause between the age of 45 and 55, but when women experience the menopause before they reach 40, it is termed a premature or early menopause. It is also known as premature ovarian failure.
This may be due to primary ovarian insufficiency in which there is decreased activity in ovaries and the periods spontaneously stops. It may be result of chemotherapy treatment for cancer or it can be surgically induced menopause when the ovaries are removed. Premature menopause can also be caused by treatments for cancer or other conditions that involve chemotherapy or radiation therapy for the pelvis. These treatments can damage the ovaries and result in ovarian failure. The chances of premature menopause depend on the type and amount of chemotherapy as well as the age of the patient
Removal of both ovaries by surgery causes menopause right away. Menstruation stops after this surgery, but the hormones of women facing such condition drop quickly. They experience strong menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and diminished sexual desire
Chromosome defects like Turner’s syndrome can lead to premature menopause. In this condition, the female is partly or completely missing an X chromosome due to which the ovaries does not form normally leading to early menopause. Women with a family history of premature menopause are more likely to have the same themselves. Autoimmune diseases like Thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis that attack the body's immune system may mistakenly effect the ovaries thus preventing them from making hormones.
One should visit a gynaecologist, if the period stops or changes before the age of 40. Menopause is confirmed when a woman does not have her period for 12 months in a row. Blood tests for measurement of oestrogen and related hormones, like follicle-stimulating hormone determines if one has reached premature menopause
Women have premature menopause can be observed as physical problems, emotional disturbances or problems associated with sexual functioning. Women experience sudden waves of mild or intense body heat commonly known as hot flashes and can also experience profuse sweating called as night sweats and have difficulty in sleeping. They experience vaginal dryness and the sexual drive or the libido also decreases. The bone density decreases leading to osteoporosis and fractures. In addition to physical symptoms, there are emotional symptoms like anxiety, mood swings, loss of focus and difficulty in concentration. Women who want to conceive and go through premature menopause may feel extremely upset. The sexual symptoms include dryness and thinning of walls of vagina, thus causing pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse.