According to the National Institute on Aging, the average age for the onset of menopause in American women is 51. Early menopause generally refers to cases where menopause begins before the age of 40, either naturally, in response to surgery such as a hysterectomy, or due to other medical reasons.
Menopause symptoms include some or all of the following:
- Cessation of periods
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of sex drive
- Joint and muscle pain
Water retention may become an issue, along with cravings and weight gain. Generally, these symptoms are a sign that the ovaries are producing less estrogen.
Early Menopause or Premenopause
Many women who experience the symptoms of menopause may actually be in premenopause, not to be confused with peri-menopause.
Premenopause syndrome (PMS) is related to the menstrual cycle becoming upset, triggering some of the symptoms of menopause, but hormone levels remain stable.
Peri-menopause is the period of a woman's life immediately prior to her entering menopause. Those in peri-menopause and early menopause tend to have more severe symptoms than normal menopause sufferers, particularly anxiety, irritability, bloating and weight gain.
Sufferers of early menopause (i.e. experiencing the symptoms of menopause under the age of 45) may experience irregular menstrual cycles causing problems conceiving. They may suffer brain fog, feel weepy and have problems concentrating.
When early menopause is triggered suddenly, due to surgery, illness or genetic issues, the rapid decline of estrogen, often referred to as an estrogen crash, causes the sufferer to enter menopause more quickly than the normal onset of menopause. In a post-surgical survey of early menopausal women, they all reported sudden development of many symptoms of menopause, such as mood swings, tiredness and hot flashes, all in quick succession. These problems were severe and lasted for more than eight years.
Those going through the stage of menopause, premenopause or early menopause, need extra understanding and support from family and friends. It's a time to lower stress as you deal with turbulent emotions and physical changes, but rest assured, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Learn more about the symptoms of menopause with this video blog.