While women generally enter menopause between the ages of 41 and 55, there are many factors that can interrupt the normal cycle of a woman’s reproductive system and bring about menopause earlier than normal. Premature menopause, also referred to as “premature ovarian failure,” occurs when a woman begins menopause before age 40.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 1 in 1000 women age 15-29 and 1 in 100 women between the ages of 30-39 experience early menopause. In some cases, premature menopause is caused from the result of a surgery, like the removal of the ovaries, or damage through radiation. In other cases, premature menopause may be attributed to a genetic disorder, an autoimmune disease, or an unknown reason. Risk factors for premature menopause include the following.
Women who have one ovary removed (single oophorectomy) or a removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) have a reduced amount of estrogen and progesterone in their bodies. Early menopause can develop as a side effect among women who have undergone cervical cancer surgery or pelvic surgery. The removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) causes immediate menopause.
Chemotherapy and radiation greatly increases the risk of premature menopause. According to the Mayo Clinic, radiotherapy can damage ovarian tissues and lead to early onset of menopause.
Certain defects in chromosomes can lead to premature menopause. One such condition, Turner syndrome, occurs when a girl is born with an incomplete chromosome. Women with Turner syndrome have ovaries that don’t function properly, often causing them to enter menopause prematurely.
Premature menopause can be a symptom of an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when a body’s immune system erroneously attacks a part of the body, mistaking it for a harmful substance. Particular autoimmune diseases, including thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause the immune system to attack the ovaries and ovarian tissues. This can lead to premature menopause.
A study in Epilepsia suggested that women with epilepsy have a higher risk of developing early menopause.
A woman with a family history of early menopause has an increased risk for entering early menopause.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women who smoke experience menopause one to two years earlier than women who don’t smoke.