Menopause, the official farewell present of puberty usually occurs around the age of 50. But sadly, this might not be the case for every woman out there. There are certain people who experience the menopause symptoms (night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, just to name a few) even in their twenties or thirties. These women, who really experience the menopause symptoms in young age, might have premature ovarian failure- scientifically known as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).
POI is a condition in which ovaries stop ovulation (producing eggs) before the age of 40. According to research, POI affects only 1 percent of women. But that 1% can be anyone!
If you’ve started worrying, let me tell you your ovaries just not stop working overnight, according to MD, fertility specialist at USC Fertility, Kristin Bendikson.
POI is an eventual disease taking the patient from multiple stages to the final disastrous destination. There are plenty of symptoms to endure before the identification of POI that might show themselves for months or even years before you finally stop having your periods. And then you’ll stop ovulating and secrete hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
Additional Health Hazards of POI
POI doesn’t leave you alone and welcomes multiple guests who refuse to leave your living room for rest of their lives. The most common of them are heart and bone diseases. But the fatal one is the inability to get pregnant. Women with POI have the hard time getting pregnant.
When should you consult your doctor?
Bendikson recommends seeing your gynaecologist if you had the upset period for last three months or didn’t have any at all.
Here are some other basic things you need to know about POI in detail.
Symptoms of POI are similar to Menopause
Symptoms of POI are similar to menopause the most significant is the loss of menstruation. As mentioned before, this doesn’t happen right away, however, it might take months or even years or irregular periods before displaying the title of POI. More of, loss of period might get joined by other symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swing, discomfort during sex, difficulty in falling asleep and vaginal dryness. Order of the symptoms for POI is not specified.
Keep this in mind about hot flashes: They happen when your ovaries undergo the process of functional failure and your body stops secreting estrogen. However, hot flashes aren’t about getting extremely warm. Sheeva Talebian, a reproductive endocrinologist, the fertility specialist in New York and MD explains hot flashes as: “these are rushes where your skin gets really, really hot and then you sweat all of a sudden.”
Causes of POI are Unclear
There can be multiple causes of POI and most of the time doctors can’t point out the exact reasons why a woman has developed POI.
“Most of the time we don’t understand why a woman has POI. It is because she was born with fewer eggs than normal or because she was losing them faster than normal? There is no way to tell the difference,” says Bendikson. More of, certain complicated treatments such as chemotherapy or other ovarian surgeries can reduce the egg production and can induce ovary failure or it can be linked with autoimmune disorders such as abnormalities in adrenal and thyroid glands, as reported by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). And it can be genetic as well carrying Fragile X syndrome or Turner’s syndrome in the background.
Women with early menopause cases in their family histories are more likely to stop bleeding before the average time. Having a close family member such as mother, sister or aunt suffering from early menopause identifies the red flag and motivates you to visit your doctor right away.
It Affects Bones and Heart
POI drops the estrogen level, as mentioned above, that enhances the chances of women with POI developing osteoporosis. Bendikson explains the process of bones weakening as estrogen promotes the continuous growth of bones and its decreased production heavily affects the texture of bones. And same is the case with heart diseases and dementia.
Bendikson explains it while saying: “All of these long-term implications, plus the symptoms put women at a higher risk for both depression and anxiety.”
POI is not Easily Treatable
The cruel truth is that there is no reliable treatment available for POI. All we can do is considering precautions and struggling to reduce the symptoms. Usually, birth control pills or hormone replacement therapies are recommended to the POI patients and they have to carry out the treatment until the age of their natural menopause.
Among these possible solutions, hormone-replacement therapy doesn’t help the fertility but it mends and secures the heart, bone and brain’s health. Bendikson further suggests women with POI taking calcium supplements and Vitamin D to avoid osteoporosis. Bendikson also asks them to use lubes or long-term moisturizers for sex.
What to do for fertility?
Women with POI can consider the techniques of IVF to reproduce. “Once you’re identified as POI, the number of eggs is so low and ovarian function is so bad that you’re not going to be able to freeze a large number of eggs,” says Bendikson.
To find the best and quick solution to your problem, the first thing you need to do is talking to your mother, asking her if she experienced an early menopause, or if anyone else did. It can help you identify the nature and prevalence of your problem and it’ll surely guide you to take the right steps in your life regarding health.
Important to mention: POI is not very common and occurs in only 1% women. To make it sure you’re not among those 1% women, self-examine yourself, stay updated, consult your doctor, eat healthily and take care of your body.
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