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Disease prevention and treatment

Symptoms of perimenopause and related conditions.

As a woman approaches the ages between 40 and 50, there is a good chance that she will soon begin to enter perimenopause.

This is the onset of symptoms related to menopause, ie. hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin, mood swings, forgetfulness, weight gain, etc. However, there are certain conditions in which the symptoms of menopause may be triggered earlier, such as surgery, illness, radiation therapy, etc.

No woman wants to go through menopause to begin with, but if she has a health problem that brings it on even earlier, it can be particularly devastating. This can happen with certain types of cancer, in which even if the ovaries are not removed (ovarian cancer in particular), radiation or chemotherapy treatments can induce a type of early menopause known as "medical menopause."

If a woman undergoes surgery that involves the direct removal of the ovaries or even just the uterus, she may be facing "surgical menopause" if the ovaries are affected. Either way, this is most likely the end of her fertility.

Depending on the type of surgery she undergoes, her doctor will likely prescribe some form of hormone therapy to initially cope with the loss of the body's natural source. In the case of hysterectomy, in which the uterus is removed, the ovaries may still be healthy enough to produce estrogen and progesterone.

However, if one or more of the ovaries is removed, some form of HRT would certainly be recommended to replace the hormones in the body and avoid a total "instant menopause" situation where the physical and psychological effects can be quite devastating.

Either way, your doctor should be able to advise you ahead of time what to expect and answer your questions about hormone replacement if necessary. There is also a condition known as "premature ovarian failure" that can occur at any age before a woman is considered to have natural menopause.

This only occurs in about 1 in 100 women and can also be related to other medical conditions such as: genetic disorders, severe malnutrition, anorexia, immune system disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or pituitary tumors. It is characterized by having very low levels of follicle-stimulating hormones and insufficient levels of estrogens, as well as amenorrhea or the absence of a normal period.

Although POF is rarely reversible, if the underlying condition is detected early enough in an otherwise healthy woman, it is possible to return to fertility. See her doctor immediately if she suspects that she may have this condition.

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