Premature menopause is a condition, where the reproductive life of a woman ends at an unusually early age. This comes as a shocking news to almost 1% – 4% of American women. Although, it appears at an early age, the symptoms and signs of premature menopause are almost similar to natural menopause.
This is because in both the cases they are caused due to hormonal fluctuations. Sometimes, various other health conditions can also be the reason for these symptoms.
Symptoms Of Premature Menopause
The periods may become quite frequent for instance, it can be every 24 days and not the usual 28 days or in some cases, it might occur later than they used to. You might see a cycle of light period followed by heavy bleeding and they might last for a short duration or a longer period. This kind of irregular menstrual cycle is because in the initial stages of premature menopause, the hormones behave quite erratically and the menstrual cycle is just reacting to this unsteadiness.
However, it is very important to note that the irregularities in the periods are not always the symptom of premature menopause. Non-malignant tumors, cancer, fibroids, polyps may also be the cause.
Perhaps the inability to conceive is one of the most disturbing signs of premature menopause. Though, you might continue to have your period and everything appears to be perfectly normal, still you can’t get pregnant. Sometimes, the irregular periods are presumed as an indication of something else, but you will never suspect it to be premature menopause. Women get to know about this problem only when they consult an endocrinologist or their doctor.
Hot flashes are considered to be the trademark indication of menopause and in case of premature menopause, hot flashes are more prevalent. This symptom generally begins with a prickly, hot feeling in the middle of the back. Then a heat wave rises to your neck, chest, scalp, back and face.
The temperature of the body might rise up to almost 8 degrees. The pulse rate shoots up and the body starts sweating as it tries to cool down. The neck, chest and face might turn deep red or pink whenever there is the hot flash. It is often noticed that women will abruptly shift from feeling extremely hot and sweaty and then feeling shiver and chill.
Vaginal Atrophy and Dryness
The vaginal tissues become dry and less elastic, when the estrogen level drops. The vagina is often itchy, it is prone to infections and sex becomes quite painful. On the emotional side, women might feel older.
This is the most unpleasant outcome of premature menopause and also emotionally quite upsetting, if it occurs in women in their 20s or 30s. Fortunately, this is one of the treatable signs of menopause and quite often it is completely reversible.
This sign is linked to vaginal atrophy or vaginal dryness and in most cases it is much worse than it sounds. Women have a tendency to urinate with more urgency or frequently. In some cases, women may have the problem of urinary incontinence and little leaks, when they exert themselves. Again, this is due to the lower estrogen levels. The urethra and bladder are formed from similar kind of tissues as the vagina.
So, just like the loss of elasticity and muscle tone of the vagina due to low estrogen production, the lower urinary tract also behaves in the similar way. Besides thinning of the lining of the urethra, the surrounding muscles also become frail. Hence, whenever, there is stress on the bladder like strenuous exercising, laughing, sneezing or coughing, women may release a bit of urine.
However, if the urinary incontinence is quite severe, it is better to consult a doctor. A greater level of difficulty can indicate a problem and it should be treated with medications or sometimes even surgery.
If you are tossing, turning and waking up quite often at night, then it might be a symptom of premature menopause. The frequency of disrupted sleep doubles from what you had earlier, that is, before entering the premature menopause. Many studies show that women experience restless sleep almost 5 to 7 years previous to menopause.
The weight gain especially in the abdomen region is another symptom of hormone fluctuation. Although, a number of doctors and books claim that weight gain has nothing to do with menopause and it occurs because women are older and the rate of metabolism has slowed down.
However, a few other studies show that the hormone level is related to gaining in weight as well as redistribution of fat and this fact makes sense because during premature menopause, women are not middle aged. It occurs due to decreased levels of progesterone, which is required to increase the metabolic rate and secondly, the production and storage of estrogen is in the fat cells.
Hence, when there is drop in the estrogen levels, the body will try to increase the estrogen level by augmenting its fat cells. Lastly, with decreased levels of female hormones, the woman’s body starts mimicking the fat distribution that is seen in males. Hence, there is more weight gain in the abdominal region. This symptom of premature menopause is often overlooked as it occurs over a period of time.
Changes in the Skin
The production of collagen slows down due to the drop in estrogen levels and collagen is an essential element that is required to keep your skin fresh-looking, resilient and toned. So, when there is a decrease in collagen, the skin gets drier, thinner, flakier and less youthful. According to research, premature menopause is responsible for swifter collagen loss than natural menopause. In short, there are more lines on your face… before you anticipated them.
Other Physical Signs
Nausea and gastrointestinal distress, itchy or tingling skin, breast tenderness, bloated feeling, ‘buzzing’ in the head, sore joints or muscles, light-headedness or dizziness, increase in facial hair, hair loss, dry mouth, changes in body odor are some of the less common and less obvious symptoms that are associated with premature menopause.