What Causes Early Menopause? Sometimes called “forced menopause,” “surgical menopause” or “sudden menopause,” early menopause occurs when a woman enters into the menopausal phase before the age of 40. Symptoms of early menopause are very similar to regular menopause symptoms. You may experience heavy bleeding, spotting, longer periods, having a period after a long time of no bleeding, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, moodiness and more. Here are some common causes of early menopause:
- Surgery — Women who have had an oophorectomy (the removal of the ovaries) will experience early menopause. Contrary to popular belief, those who have had a hysterectomy (the removal of the uterus) will not experience surgical menopause. Following an oophorectomy, the body will stop making estrogen, forcing early menopause. Surgical menopause may be supplemented with hormone therapy to reduce or completely stop the short-term symptoms of menopause.
- Sickness — There are several diseases and conditions that can plunge you into early menopause, the most common being cancer. Chemotherapy-induced menopause is remarkably common, occurring in as many as 50 percent of chemotherapy patients younger than 40. Other conditions, such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and epilepsy can affect the ovaries and cause forced menopause.
- Genetics — If your mom or grandmother entered menopause early, there’s a good chance you will too. Combined with other factors (such as lifestyle choices and overall health), your genetics will provide a good indication of when you’re likely to begin menopause. There are also some chromosome defects, such as Turner syndrome, that affect ovary function and kick-start menopause symptoms.
- Premature Ovarian Failure — In some cases, a woman might experience what’s called premature ovarian failure (POI), which occurs when her ovaries stop working before the age of 40. POI is relatively rare — occurring in about 200,000 women per year — and occurs when the ovaries cease to provide normal amounts of estrogen or release eggs regularly. Not only will this cause premature menopause, but it will also likely cause infertility.