Premature ovarian failure is the medical term used to describe early menopause. Menopause usually occurs in women between the ages of 42 and 56. Premature ovarian failure is a condition in which menopause occurs before the age of 40. Women who develop early menopause usually have run out of eggs in their ovaries.
Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure
You may experience menstrual irregularity, hot flashes, mood changes, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness.
Causes of Premature Ovarian Failure
The cause of premature ovarian failure is generally unknown. However, there are a few reasons why the ovaries may experience a decrease in egg supply at an early age. Exposure to certain chemicals or medical treatments can damage or destroy the ovaries. These may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are sometimes associated with early menopause because the immune system forms antibodies that attack and damage the ovaries. Heredity can also play a role as some genetic disorders lead to early menopause. Women with premature ovarian failure are also more likely to have thyroid disease and diabetes.
Medical Contribution: Stephen Greenhouse, M.D.
diagnostic tests for premature ovarian failure
Your medical history is important in diagnosing premature ovarian failure. However, your physician may need other tests to confirm the diagnosis such as:
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
A high level of follicle-stimulating hormone in your blood at a specific time in your cycle may indicate menopause.
Tests that diagnose autoimmune problems of the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal gland that may be related to developing early menopause.
A photograph of your chromosomes, used to diagnose genetic causes of early menopause.
treatment for premature ovarian failure
While we cannot reverse the effects of premature ovarian failure there are still several treatment options to help aid in conception. Depending on the size of the remaining supply of eggs your physician may recommend either in vitro fertilization (IVF) using either your own eggs or donated eggs. While success may be possible using your own eggs, the best results will come when using the eggs of a donor.
When a decrease in ovarian supply is identified early, a woman may want to consider the Egg Freezing Program at Shady Grove Fertility as it provides a reliable option for the future. By freezing your eggs before the egg supply is nearly depleted, you can extend your fertility potential for when you are ready to have a family. However, women with diagnosed premature ovarian failure are not eligible for egg freezing.
Are there any long-term risks associated with early menopause?
Your ovaries are not producing enough estrogen to protect you from heart disease and osteoporosis (loss of bone density). You can reduce your risks for these diseases with hormone replacement therapy, calcium supplements, and regular exercise.
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