Surgical Menopause: What Is It and What Are Its Consequences?

This article explains what surgical menopause is, why it occurs, its symptoms and consequences, and treatment options.
Surgical Menopause: What Is It and What Are Its Consequences?

Last update: 19 January, 2023

Surgical menopause is a process that occurs in women after an operation to remove the ovaries. It is similar to natural menopause, only that it occurs at a still fertile age.

As a result, some changes occur in the body, manifesting various symptoms:

  • Hot flashes
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances

Menopause is a natural process in the body

Menopause is a process that women go through. It has to do with the cessation of egg production and a progressive decrease in sex hormone levels.

The age at which menopause begins may vary from person to person. In some women, it begins around the age of 45 and the stages can extend over a period of several years.

During this period, three phases are identified:

  • Premenopause: the first symptoms appear due to the reduction of ovarian activity.
  • Menopause: marked by the definitive disappearance of menstruation.
  • Postmenopause: various symptoms appear, all of which are related to the drop in estrogen levels.

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What is surgical menopause?

Unlike the previous one, surgical menopause, also called iatrogenic menopause, does not occur due to natural causes. It can happen at any age, that is, in women who are still able to conceive.

As its name implies, it is the consequence of a surgical intervention performed to remove the ovaries, called a bilateral ovariectomy or oophorectomy, which is the removal of the ovaries. This may be required for a variety of reasons:

  • Cancer
  • Endometriosis
  • Abscesses in the fallopian tubes or ovaries

However, if an operation is performed to remove the uterus, but the ovaries (one or both) are left behind, the woman will have natural menopause, at the appropriate age. In other words, after the hysterectomy, menstruation will cease, but the ovarian function will allow estrogen production to continue.

It should be clarified that sometimes bilateral oophorectomy is performed together with hysterectomy, as a prophylactic measure to prevent cancer. In other words, healthy ovaries are removed. According to research, this can occur in 40-55% of cases.

surgical menopause
Hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus. Oophorectomy is the removal of the ovaries. Both surgeries can be performed together if indicated by your physician.

The initial symptoms of surgical menopause

Once the oophorectomy is performed, some symptoms begin to appear. And although they are similar to those that occur when the process occurs naturally with age, in surgical menopause some appear from the first day after the operation.

In this order of ideas, among the symptoms of menopause that can appear immediately we can find the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Hot flashes
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety and nervousness.
  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).

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The consequences of surgical menopause

Gradually, there are going to be other consequences of surgical menopause, because estrogen levels decrease. As occurs in the case of natural menopause, a person’s risk of developing several conditions increases. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Osteoporosis

Although estrogen, together with progesterone, are the main female sex hormones, they are also related to other functions in the body. In this sense, they have an effect on the bone system.

Therefore, when their levels decrease, bones become more fragile, increasing the risk of suffering fractures. According to studies, there are other factors that influence the onset of osteoporosis, such as family history, calcium intake, physical activity, obesity, and smoking.

Increased cholesterol and cardiovascular risk

Estrogen is also closely related to cholesterol. Thus, when the levels of this hormone increase, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels decrease.

According to research, a person’s cardiovascular risk increases with surgical menopause. Diseases such as atherosclerosis appear, as well as the possibility of suffering strokes and myocardial infarction.

Decreased sexual desire

According to the results of a study, in women with surgical menopause due to bilateral oophorectomy, with or without hysterectomy, the prevalence of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is higher.

Vaginal dryness

Another consequence due to the decrease in estrogen levels is that the vagina becomes less lubricated. It even changes the pH, which also affects the vaginal microbiota.

Other bodily changes

In addition to the above, low estrogen modifies the levels of collagen and elastin, causing their production to decrease. As a result, the skin loses moisture and shine, resulting in more wrinkles. Likewise, the nails may become brittle, and the possibility of developing alopecia increases.

Emtional disorders and depression

Due to menopause, women are more prone to suffer from mood disorders and various psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, memory loss, and decreased concentration.

Treatment of surgical menopause

The aforementioned disorders can significantly affect a woman’s quality of life. Therefore, in order to reduce, avoid or prevent such symptoms and consequences, different types of treatment for surgical menopause are applied.

surgical menopause
When the symptoms of surgical menopause affect the quality of life, medical treatments are instituted. Also when there is an increased risk of future complications.

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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Also called estrogen replacement therapy, it seeks to compensate for what the ovaries would normally produce. It’s applied in various ways, either with patches or orally (tablets).

These replacement hormones help to reduce symptoms, protect against osteoporosis, and prevent cardiovascular problems. They also reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, collagen loss, and vaginal dryness.

However, HRT is considered to carry certain risks. In this regard, some studies indicate that it may increase the risk of stroke, venous thromboembolic disease, and breast cancer.

Other pharmacological treatments

Other treatments, alternative or complementary to hormone replacement, include the following options:

  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent osteoporosis.
  • Antidepressants and anticonvulsants for hot flashes and anxiety.
  • Antihypertensives in the case of developing arterial hypertension.

Phytotherapy

Phytotherapy treatment for surgical menopause involves the use of extracts of various plant species, such as black cohosh, soybeans, red clover, butcher’s broom, red vine, olive leaf, and garlic.

They may have antioxidant, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective effects, helping to alleviate musculoskeletal disorders, memory loss, and hot flashes. According to studies, some plants have shown efficacy in alleviating certain symptoms.

However, more research is still needed in this regard.

Healthy lifestyle

Finally, a healthy lifestyle is recommended, with a diet rich in calcium, regular physical activity, striving to maintain a healthy weight, sunbathing in moderation (to maintain vitamin D levels), and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol.

You are not alone if you’ve gone through a surgical menopause

Coping with the consequences of surgical menopause can be difficult for some women, as it affects their sex life and health. However, being able to count on help is valuable in these circumstances.

First of all, there is the family, the couple, and friends. Also, you should know that there are also support groups of people who have gone through the same situation and who meet to share their experiences.

However, if you feel that you are going through a difficult situation, do not hesitate to go to therapy with a mental health professional. Also, don’t forget to follow the doctor’s recommendations to the letter, as well as to attend all of your scheduled checkups.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.