On average, menopause begins when women are between 40 and 55 years old, but some women don't enter menopause until they are 60 or even older, which is known as late menopause. Some women, for a variety of reasons, reach menopause earlier, and this is known as early menopause. Although the average age for reaching menopause is 51, it is completely normal that women reach menopause during a wide range of ages.
What Is Early Menopause?
Early menopause is simply defined as menopause that starts before the age of 40. Early menopause can be caused by genetics, or it can be surgically induced. Early menopause is not usually a cause for concern, but it is a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have any questions or are experiencing menopause symptoms that need treatment.
Common Causes of Early Menopause
A variety of factors can be behind a woman's early menopause experience.
Genetics. In general, the age at which your menopause starts depends on your genes. If you have a family history of early menopause, then you may be more likely to experience it. If early menopause is worrying you, it may help to talk about your symptoms with other women who have had similar experiences.
Poor nutrition and poverty. Both of these factors have been linked to early menopause. Not getting adequate nutrition, especially at the developing stage of the ovaries, can cause disruptions in a woman's reproductive lifespan.
Tobacco and alcohol. These substances, especially when consumed in excess, have both been noted to prompt the onset of menopause at an earlier age.
Surgical removal of the ovaries. This is an obvious cause of early menopause. They may need to be removed because of an infection or cancer risk. When a woman has had her ovaries surgically removed, she is likely to experience menopause symptoms more intensely than a woman who experiences menopause naturally.
Cancer treatments. In particular, pelvic radiation treatments and chemotherapy can be very harsh on the body. These treatments can damage the ovaries, resulting in ovarian failure and early menopause.
Premature ovarian failure (POV). This is another cause of early menopause. Women suffering from POV have ovaries that are not functioning properly, and either stop releasing eggs or no longer produce the hormone required for them in order to ovulate, thus resulting in menopause, sometimes at a younger age than a woman otherwise would have.
Other conditions. Infections like the mumps and tuberculosis, though uncommon, can infect the ovaries and result in early menopause.
Early menopause is not something that needs to be treated or prevented. Early menopause can increase a woman's risk for certain diseases, but often, lifestyle changes and a healthy diet and exercise can help reduce those odds. It's important to talk to your doctor if you have questions or are seeking treatment for menopause symptoms. Click on the following link to learn more about early menopause treatments.
- Better Health Channel. (2014). Symptoms of premature and early menopause. Retrieved October 27, 2015, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Menopause_premature_early_menopause
- National Institute on Aging. (2015). Menopause: Time for a Change. Retrieved October 27, 2015, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause-time-change/what-can-you-do-hot-flashes-and-other-menopausal-symptoms