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International Women's Day Special: 12 Possible Causes Of Premature Or Early Menopause

Every year on 8 March International Women's Day is observed to celebrate the economic, social, political and cultural achievements of women. The day is also meant to highlight common health issues in women and how to treat or prevent them.

Image Illustration By Freepik

Premature menopause is one such health issue in women. It is defined as premature failure of ovaries at an early age of 40 years. Studies say that most women get menopause in their 40's, usually between the age groups 45-55 years. However, when menopause arrives before the age of 40, due to various causes, it is called premature menopause. [1]

Early or premature menopause could be spontaneous or induced. The prior could be due to factors like genetics and the latter could be due to lifestyle or environmental factors like smoking or chemotherapy. Whatever is the cause, females who experience ovarian failure and oestrogen deficiency at an early age are at increased risk of premature menopause.

In this article, we will discuss possible causes or risk factors of premature or early menopause. Take a look.

1. Family history

This is a primary factor in determining premature menopause. According to a study, the risk of the condition linked to family history is greatest in first degree relatives like a sister, followed by multiple relatives and other cases of premature menopause. It means, if your mother or sister has the condition, you are likely to get affected by the same. [2]

2. Genetic disorders

Several genetic variants are involved in menopause; according to a study, dysfunction of the genes related to DNA repair and maintenance may lead to accelerated ageing of the cells and cell death, thus leading to ovarian failure and resulting in premature menopause. [3] Other studies talk about sex chromosome anomalies such as those in Turner's syndrome and ovarian dysgenesis, leading to the condition.

3. Malnutrition

A study talks about premature menopause due to malnutrition based on studies on Korean women born between the 1920s and 1930s. It says that women born between these periods are socially deprived and malnourished in their young adulthood due to the Korean war and have experienced premature menopause later compared to women born after the 1940s. This indicates that young age nutrition is very essential to prevent the risk of the condition. [4]

4. Autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders are responsible for around 30-60 per cent of cases of early menopause. Hyperthyroidism or thyroid-related problems like Grave's disease is among the primary causes of the condition. These autoimmune conditions often lead to estrogen deficiency and cause the early arrival of menopause. [5] Other autoimmune conditions may include rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

5. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment method for cancer that uses powerful anti-cancer drugs or medications. Studies say that premenopausal women who have undergone chemotherapy are likely to experience amenorrhea or irregular periods, followed by early menopause in many cases, probably due to deficiency of follicle-stimulating hormone within six of chemotherapy. [6]

6. Surgical removal of ovaries or uterus

Surgeries such as Bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both the fallopian tubes and ovaries) and hysterectomy (a surgical procedure to remove the uterus) leads to a chronic and acute deficiency of the hormones such as oestrogen produced by the ovaries, thus leading to premature menopause. [7]

7. Body mass index

A study talks about adult adiposity and the risk of early menopause. It says that high and low adiposity is indirectly related to the functions of the reproductive system and may cause early menopause in women with high fat compared to women with normal weight. The risk is the same in women who are underweight. [8]

8. Use of tobacco and alcohol

Lifestyle factors such as the use of tobacco and alcohol are associated with early age menopause. According to a study, smoking can induce premature menopause due to polycyclic hydrocarbons in cigarette smoke. [9] In another study, early menopause was found higher in women who reported drinking compared to women who do not drink. [10]

9. Physical inactivity

Physical inactivity may influence menopause timing and lead to premature menopause but studies that are directly related to them are insufficient. However, experts say that physical inactivity, lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle may lead to chronic diseases like obesity and high cholesterol and could further lead to the condition

10. Serum lead levels

According to a study, high levels of lead in the tibia (one of the two larger bones) is related to early age menopause. Exposure to lead can affect the female reproductive system and cause decreased production of oestrogen hormones. This may lead to premature menopause. [11]

11. Infections

Infections such as mumps and pelvic tuberculosis are linked to menopause at an early stage. Such infection types may result in ovarian failure causing amenorrhea and thus, premature menopause. [12]

12. Medications

Prolonged use of certain medications like Gonadotropin-releasing hormone may lead to ovarian failure or suppression. Other medications include chemotherapy drugs or strong medications that may cause ovarian damage. [13]

Complications Of Premature Menopause

Premature menopause may lead to complications like:

  • Neurological disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Mood disorders
  • Premature death
  • Ischemic heart disease.

To Conclude

Premature menopause may lead to higher morbidity and mortality. Consult a medical expert for the preventive measures if the condition is known to have in the family. Also, avoid ways such as smoking and alcoholism to lower the risk of premature menopause.