Symptoms of early menopause are basically the same as for menopause at the expected age but they are occurring in a woman aged less than 45 years old. Menopausal symptoms are often more severe in women going through early menopause compared with natural age of menopause (about 50 years of age)
In women who are going to have an early menopause, the first symptom may be some irregularity of menstrual periods or lack of return of periods after stopping the oral contraceptive pill. Sometimes symptoms may fluctuate – sometimes feeling hot, sometimes irritable and anxious or as if having premenstrual symptoms, other times having sore breasts and bloating. Menopausal symptoms may start while the women are still having menstrual periods; the symptoms becoming more frequent as the periods occur less often. Some women have no symptoms except for the menstrual periods stopping.
Where women have undergone a surgical menopause (after surgical removal of both ovaries), symptoms of hot flushes and sweats will usually commence within 2-3 days of the operation and if left untreated, will become very severe. Menopause symptoms following chemotherapy or radiotherapy may vary in their onset because of the types and doses of therapy, but are often quite severe.
For some women, the first sign of early menopause may be difficulty or inability to get pregnant.
The diagnosis of spontaneous early menopause, where the periods stop for no apparent reason, often takes time to make or confirm. In young women, early menopause is often forgotten as a cause of infrequent periods or periods having ceased.
In Australia, the most common symptoms are hot flushes and night sweats. Most women have more than one symptom. These may include:
- hot flushes and night sweats
- aches and pains
- crawling or itching sensations under the skin
- vaginal dryness
- reduced sex drive (libido)
- urinary frequency
- sleeping difficulty
- lack of self esteem
Deciding whether you seek treatment or not depends on how much your symptoms interfere with you living your daily life. Treatment with hormone therapy is recommended to reduce symptoms and the long-term health risks associated with early menopause, such as osteoporosis. However, other therapies may be recommended for moderate to severe symptoms if there are reasons, such as breast cancer, for not being able to take hormone therapy. Discussing these issues with your doctor will help you make the right decision for you.
For more general information on menopause see Managing Menopause for
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Content updated February 7, 2011