Health Topics

Healthy Living

September 2011
Young Women HITTING Menopause!
Dr.Shakti Bhan Khanna
At 29, Monica was shocked to get news on hitting menopause and not quite plan a second child that she so desperately wanted.  In her case, it is obviously a premature menopause or a  Premature Ovarian Failure.

Women usually hit menopause when they are about 51 on an average, that is, between the ages of 40 and 58 years. However, what is alarming is the rising incidence of Premature Ovarian Failure or early menopause that is affecting women as early as when they are merely 20.

The existing theory that menopause occurs naturally with the ageing process cannot be reiterated as it can occur due to various other reasons today and as early as one reaches her 20s or 30s. Poor diet, rising stress levels and chemicals have been reported to be the eminent causes for early menopause in women. Precocious puberty, i.e., early onset of periods before the age of 10 years can also lead to early menopause.

  • Irregular periods or no periods
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Palpitation
  • Weight gain with skin changes like dry skin
  • Headache and nausea
  • Hair Loss
  • High levels of FSH (Follicle Stimulating hormone) and  lower levels of Estradiol

What can happen?
Premature ovarian failure is marked by irregular and occasional periods, whereas in premature menopause there is complete stoppage of periods. The associated health risks are:
  • Bone weakening or osteoporosis
  • Cardiovascular diseases (heart attack)
  • Urogenital diseases (urinary incontinence)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Weight gain
  • Coping up with the emotional side of premature menopause becomes difficult amidst  lowered libido, depression, mood swings, confusion, irritability and fatigue

Causes of early menopause
Some possible causes for younger women hitting menopause are:
  • Genetics
  • Autoimmune disorder where the immune system starts destroying the ovaries
  • Stress, poor diet and trauma
  • Chemotherapy for cancers of the reproductive system can cause immediate damage to the ovaries or after several months
  • Pelvic radiation
  • Surgical removal of ovaries or damage to ovaries due to any disease
  • Chemicals in fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking
  • A malfunctioning thyroid or pituitary gland, both of which play a part in hormone production, may be another cause in addition to overactive adrenal glands
  • Some cases of hereditary premature menopause are caused by defects on an X chromosome
  • Overproduction of prolactin hormone
  •  Birth Control Pills
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Overweight leading to scanty periods and subsequently no periods

What must be done?

Hormone replacement therapy:
In women below 35 years of age, symptomatic relief will be obtained by giving the hormone replacement therapy (HRT), after due consideration and discussion with the patient. Long-term HRT has its own side effects such as increased risk of breast cancer.

Calcium supplements and regular exercises are other important measures.

Women wanting fertility can become pregnant by various IVF techniques.

Lifestyle changes:
Some changes in lifestyle and diet such as practising relaxation techniques, adequate sleep, diet of whole grains, and quitting the cigarettes can make women healthy and happy even with the menopause at 20.

Dr.Shakti Bhan Khanna is Senior Consultant and Clinical Co-ordinator Obstetrics & Gynaecology Apollo Indraprastha Hospitals,New Delhi.
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