If a person experiences menopause ages 40–45, this is known as early menopause. If they experience menopause before age 40, this is premature menopause.

Early menopause may result from medical treatments or, as a side effect of them. However, some people may experience early menopause due to unexplained factors.

Early menopause can lead to several health complications. As a result, it is important for anyone experiencing symptoms to speak with a doctor as soon as possible.

This article discusses the causes, symptoms, and treatments for early menopause.

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A person has early, or premature, menopause when they do not have a period for 12 months in a row before the age of 45.

Other symptoms associated with changing hormone levels include:

No definitive test exists to reveal if a person is in early menopause. But there are tests that help a doctor determine if a person is probably experiencing this condition.

Examples include a blood test for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone controls the production of eggs in the menstrual cycle.

However, hormone levels change depending on where a person is in their menstrual cycle. People can have a low FSH level yet not be going through menopause.

Learn more about FSH levels here.

Both medical treatments and other factors can result in early menopause. Some of the most common causes of early menopause include:

  • Ovary dysfunction: Infections, autoimmune diseases, and genetic disorders can cause the ovaries to stop working.
  • Cancer: Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation to the pelvis for cancer can damage the cells in the ovaries, resulting in early menopause.
  • Surgery to remove the uterus or ovaries: An operation to remove the ovaries is known as an oophorectomy, and it can induce what is called surgical menopause.

People with a close family relative, such as a mother or grandmother, who went through early menopause, are more likely to do the same.

When a person experiences early menopause that is not a result of medical intervention, this condition is known as primary ovarian insufficiency.

Menopause and its hormonal changes cause several symptoms. Hot flashes may be temporary, but other long-term effects can impact life and health.

Going through early menopause at a young age can affect a person’s childbearing years. As a result, they will not be able to get pregnant. This can have a far-reaching psychological impact.

Other long-term complications associated with early menopause include:

Loss of bone density

Dense bones are harder to break and are therefore considered healthier than less dense ones. A lack of estrogen results in more brittle bones. This can make a person prone to osteoporosis, or thin bones.

People going through early menopause have a greater risk of broken bones, such as those of the hips, wrists, and spine.

Increased risk for cardiovascular disease

People have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease after menopause.

Pre-existing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, can further increase this risk.

Urinary incontinence

The lack of estrogen due to early menopause can result in thinning vaginal tissues. This can result in an increased risk for urinary incontinence, especially when coughing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects.

Weight gain

It is common for people to gain weight during and after menopause.

A person’s metabolism can slow due to menopause. As a result, they may gain weight.

Affected sexual activity

The lack of lubrication due to thinning of the vaginal tissues can affect sexual function. A person may have a lack of sexual desire, as well as reduced vaginal lubrication.

Mental health implications

Research suggests that early menopause can have a negative effect on the ability to think, including visual memories and verbal fluency. It can also increase a person’s risk of depression.

Other studies suggest an increased risk of dementia in those who undergo early menopause.

Most medical societies recommend that those who go through early menopause take hormone replacement therapy until they reach expected menopausal age.

This therapy means taking estrogen and other hormones that are similar to the body’s natural hormones, to reduce menopause symptoms.

HRT can carry a small risk of breast cancer. Learn more here.

Other steps a person can take to combat the symptoms associated with early menopause include:

  • Avoiding spicy and hot-temperature foods: These foods can increase the likelihood of a hot flash. Hot weather and stressful events raise the likelihood of hot flashes, as well.
  • Dressing in layers: Doing so allows for the removal of a layer if a person has a hot flash.
  • Eating a balanced diet: Early menopause can mean a person needs more calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health. Eating a balanced, healthful diet usually means a person gets the vitamins and minerals they need.
  • Exercising regularly: Getting regular exercise not only relieves stress, but it can also promote better sleep at night.
  • Keeping the bedroom cool: Using a fan and keeping the temperature low can ensure a more comfortable sleep.
  • Using a water-based lubricant during sex: This can reduce painful sex due to lack of vaginal lubrication.

If a person experiences urinary incontinence related to early menopause, they should talk with their doctor. Recommendations include interventions such as drinking less as the day goes on or performing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor.

Going through menopause can also affect a person’s mental health. Interpersonal therapy and antidepressant medications can help manage these symptoms.

Early menopause is one that occurs earlier than the average, typically between the ages of 40-45. If a person experiences menopause before the age of 40, this is considered premature menopause.

Medical procedures, autoimmune conditions, and viral infections can all cause early menopause. Treatment options include hormone replacement therapy, interpersonal counseling, and lifestyle changes.