Q. What is premature ovarian failure? And how do I know if I’m at risk?
A. Premature ovarian failure, sometimes known as premature menopause, is surprisingly common. Approximately 1 out of every 100 women experience this prior to the age of 40. It differs from menopause, as women with this condition may still have menstrual cycles and may occasionally become pregnant. There are multiple causes including genetics, chromosomal defects, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, surgery, and autoimmune disease. If a close relative, such as a mother or sister, has experienced premature ovarian failure, then you may be at an increased risk. Smoking also increases your risk.
Missed periods are usually the earliest symptom. Other symptoms include hot flashes and night sweats. Many women discover they have premature ovarian failure when they experience difficulty becoming pregnant. Infertility treatments can assist some patients, and others may achieve pregnancy using donated eggs. A blood test for the hormone FSH can be helpful in making the diagnosis, as it is often unusually high in patients with this condition. Your doctor may perform other tests including a pelvic exam, pregnancy test, blood test for additional hormones, and possibly a chromosomal analysis.
Lacy M. Windham, M.D.
Life Circle Women’s Healthcare
2301 North Ocoee St.
Cleveland, TN 37311