Premature Menopause

Most cases of Premature Ovarian Failure occur for unknown reasons.ย  Causes such as chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer are possibilities (not radiation in CT scans).ย  Some cases are due to autoimmune destruction of the ovaries. The known genetic causes such as Turner Syndrome usually show up in childhood.ย  Premature Ovarian Failure is now called Premature Ovarian Insufficiency, because rarely menstrual periods and/or some degree of fertility may return.

Women usually experience irregular periods which eventually stop, and eventually other typical symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness.  Some are diagnosed during work-ups for infertility.  Bone loss is a significant complication.

Diagnosis is usually not difficult, by finding high blood levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) (see Ovulation).ย  Uncommonly, other hormone measurements may be needed, or follicle counts by ultrasound.

In terms of treatment, hormone replacement is usually recommended to prevent bone loss & protect the heart.  Contraception may also be important, since ovarian โ€œinsufficiencyโ€ may not be complete; up to 10% of women may be able to become pregnant.  But the main necessary treatment may be psychological support, since many women with premature menopause suffer from depression.

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