Ovarian Failure Causes More General Failure of the Immune System

Estrogen has far reaching consequences as discussed in Menopause, Make Peace With Change. It has been know for awhile that premature menopause may cause more widespread health consequences including cardiovascular disease and problems with the immune system. These clinical problems are due specifically to low estrogen levels, and a new study out says that even women who go through menopause at a natural age will be have some degree of  immune system malfunction once they do become menopausal. It is uncommon for women to have premature menopause, but loosing your menstrual cycle prior to the age of 40 is considered premature. women under the age of 35 who lose their menstrual period have 7 times the risk of heart attacks, and a much higher risk of osteoporosis and hit fractures. Fortunately, this is rare to happen in under the age of 35 although premature menopause can happen to 10% of the female population. The formal name for premature menopause used to be premature ovarian failure (POF ), and now others are terming this condition Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)Evaluation for premature ovarian failure or premature ovarian insufficiency is warranted for any woman aged younger than 40 years who misses three or more consecutive menstrual cycles.

. Not having a menstrual period for over 3 months is not menopause, it's just a lack of a period, and that is a different condition termed amenorrhea and not necessarily associated with immune problems the way menopause is. The most common causes of missing your period or amenorrhea are lack of ovulation and being pregnant, so don't jump to conclusions as to whether you are menopausal. Hysterectomy, even when keeping your ovaries, and uterine artery embolization can both produce premature menopause if performed prior to the natural age of menopause and if blood flow to the ovaries are compromised. It happens in about 5/1000 cases of hysterectomy in women who keep their ovaries, and about 1/100 cases of uterine artery embolization.

 If you are diagnosed with premature menopause your gyno is going to consider in the list of what to evaluate, the diagnosis of autoimmune disease. Some women will have the diagnosis of premature menopause made on the basis of blood testing, but in fact the ovary may still have a few healthy eggs, the ovary will recover, come out of menopause and this can trigger a women to begin their menstrual cycles and be fertile again. So it's not a bad idea to just wait for a few months before any additional sophisticated tests before testing for either menopause or immune diseases. For those who have true premature menopause it may be wise to test for autoimmune disease.

If one gland fails because of the body attacking itself, another gland may fail for the same reasons. Tests for immune problems might include testing for the hormones that control blood sugar, blood calcium the thyroid and the adrenal. Autoimmune patients would specifically have antibodies to some of these hormones, and that can be tested for as well.

So if you are getting menopausal symptoms in your thirties please have this properly evaluated. Your immune system is critical to all functions, and recent studies show that in women with a healthy immune system are more likely to live a long life. In an AARD article in 2010 it listed some of these diseases due to faltering immune system: Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and scleroderma. Lack of estrogen decreases immune system function by decreasing cells that directly fight disease such as CD4 levels. Thus when the immune system malfunctions those diseases tied to the immune system mentioned above begin to flare. In a review article on this subject in Obstetrics and Gynecology 2012 they advise women and their health care providers to consider these diseases when evaluating health in menopause. So get over to your gyno and gab about this topic!


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