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Early Menopause and Premature Ovarian Insufficiency: Common Causes, Signs & Symptoms

Updated: May 14

Old couple health

Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), or early menopause, is a condition in which a woman's ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. It can have significant effects on a woman's overall health, including bone density, cardiovascular health, fertility, and emotional well-being.


In most cases, the reasons for early menopause are not fully understood, but here are the five most common factors:


  1. Genetic factors or family history: Certain genetic conditions can predispose women to experience menopause at an earlier age. If a woman has close relatives who experienced early menopause, such as her mother or sisters, she may also be at higher risk. This genetic predisposition can influence the timing of menopause by affecting ovarian function and follicle depletion. One common genetic condition associated with early menopause is Turner syndrome.

  2. Autoimmune diseases: Autoimmune conditions, where the immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the body, can also contribute to early menopause. Conditions like thyroid disorders, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis may increase the risk of premature ovarian insufficiency.

  3. Surgical removal of ovaries (oophorectomy): Surgical procedures that involve removing the ovaries, such as oophorectomy, can induce menopause. This may occur due to conditions like endometriosis or ovarian cysts, resulting in abrupt hormonal changes and menopausal symptoms.

  4. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy: Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy can damage the ovaries, leading to temporary or permanent ovarian insufficiency. The extent of ovarian damage depends on the type and duration of treatment, impacting fertility and hormone production.

  5. Infections: Although rare, certain infections can trigger early menopause. Diseases like mumps, malaria, HIV, or tuberculosis have been associated with ovarian dysfunction and premature ovarian insufficiency in some cases.


The most common signs of premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) include:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods

  • Hot flushes and night sweats

  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort

  • Decreased fertility

  • Mood changes and emotional symptoms

If experiencing any of these symptoms, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and management. Organizations like The Daisy Network offer valuable support and resources for women with POI (www.daisynetwork.org).


Blog post written by guest writer, Dr. Naomi Potter.

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