Premature Menopause (Medical Procedural Causes) (cont.)

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What is premature menopause?

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Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods cease. It is defined medically as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months. The average age for a natural menopause is 51. Sometimes, menopause occurs earlier, due to diseases, genetic factors, or surgery. There is also a wide variation among women regarding the timing of normal menopause. However, when menopause occurs before the age of 40, it is referred to as premature menopause.

What causes premature menopause?

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One medical causes of premature menopause is known as premature ovarian failure. Technically, premature ovarian failure is not the same as premature menopause. In premature ovarian failure, the ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. Women with premature ovarian failure may still occasionally have menstrual periods but typically experience infertility. Premature ovarian failure is sometimes called primary ovarian insufficiency; the result of premature ovarian failure usually causes the symptoms of premature menopause.

Premature menopause can also be caused by treatments for cancers or other conditions that involve chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to the pelvis. These treatments can damage the ovaries and result in ovarian failure.

Surgery to remove the ovaries, either for benign or malignant conditions, results in premature menopause if both ovaries are removed. Surgery to remove the uterus results in menopause in the sense that menstrual bleeding does not occur, but the ovaries, if not removed along with the uterus, continue to produce hormones.

Other infrequent causes that may lead to premature menopause include drugs, chronic diseases, pituitary and hypothalamic tumors, psychiatric disorders, and other relatively rare or undefined conditions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/26/2013

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