As you age, your body starts to go through changes. Your muscle mass and metabolism shift and you may start noticing a few gray hairs. For women, aging also brings menopause, sometimes sooner than expected. So what is early menopause and what does it mean for you? Learn how to manage the condition.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is the hormonal change that ends a woman’s reproductive years. Your body will have new normal hormone levels during menopause that don’t support producing eggs or carrying a pregnancy. The changes in hormones also affect other processes in your body.
Can You Hit Menopause Before Age 45?
Most women anticipate menopause but consider it something that happens when they get into their 50s. However, some women can start dealing with the changes sooner, even before the age of 45. This is considered early or premature menopause and it can happen for several different reasons:
- Genetics: Early menopause can be hereditary, meaning it runs in families. If your mother or sister experienced early menopause, you may be at a higher risk of experiencing it as well.
- Autoimmune disorders: Certain autoimmune disorders, such as thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis, can increase your risk.
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy: Cancer treatments can damage the ovaries, leading to early menopause. Removing the ovaries can have the same effect.
- Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of early menopause, as it can damage the ovaries and decrease estrogen levels.
Early menopause is not always preventable, but certain lifestyle choices, such as not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, can help reduce the risk.
Signs Of Early Menopause
Women with risk factors or who are just starting to notice changes in their bodies in their 40s may wonder if early menopause is to blame. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor if you start to notice any of these symptoms:
- Irregular or missed periods: One of the first signs is changes in menstrual cycles. Women may experience skipped periods, shorter or longer periods, or heavier or lighter bleeding.
- Hot flashes and night sweats: Early menopause can cause sudden feelings of warmth or heat that spread throughout the body. These hot flashes can be accompanied by night sweats that cause excessive sweating during sleep.
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex: A decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can lead to changes in your sexual health.
- Mood changes: Women going through early menopause may experience mood swings, anxiety, depression, or irritability. Learn how to control mood swings during menopause to make the adjustment easier.
- Sleep disturbances: Early menopause can cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or waking up frequently during the night.
The sooner you reach out to your doctor about these problems, the sooner you can assess what you will need to feel like yourself again.
Menopause is a natural part of life that impacts every person differently. It happens sooner for some than it does for others. Thankfully, treatments such as natural estrogen supplements over the counter or other hormone replacements can help you feel better. Find your path forward today.