There are several reasons beyond age-related hormone loss that can cause a woman to enter menopause.
Causes of Menopause
• Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) and Premature Menopause can occur in women under age 40. The ovaries cease to function normally and either stop or substantially slow down their production of estradiol, triggering early menopause. Women who experience this will often display a variety of symptoms normally associated with perimenopause and menopause.
• Surgical Menopause can take place anytime in a woman’s life. It involves the surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) and/or uterus (hysterectomy), causing an abrupt halt in the manufacture of estradiol, testosterone and progesterone – steroid hormones created in the ovaries. Many women are taken by surprise when this hormone loss prompts the immediate onset of a variety of uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and others.
• Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer can bring about menopause accompanied by a variety of symptoms. This can happen either during or shortly after treatment and often triggers the cessation of both menstruation and fertility. These circumstances may be temporary in the case of chemotherapy, but not always.
• Aging-related Hormone Decline is the most common cause of menopause. It occurs in the majority of women somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60. The average age for menopause in American women is 51. What many women think of as menopause is actually the intermediate stage beforehand, called perimenopause. This stage lasts about four or five years. It is often a time of hormonal and emotional upheaval as hormone levels fluctuate wildly and cause an onslaught of disruptive symptoms. Menopause finally arrives when the ovaries stop producing estradiol altogether and create only trace amounts of progesterone and testosterone.
Note that some symptoms can be due to causes other than hormonal imbalance or menopause. In the cases of POF and premature menopause, the symptoms appear gradually, starting at an early age. If you do have symptoms, you will want to be sure you are otherwise in good health. You need to be evaluated by a physician who takes into account your medical history, menstrual periods, medications and other related issues. Request a physical exam, a mammogram and Pap test, in addition to blood labs measuring hormone levels.