What Is Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea


What Is Amenorrhea? 

Amenorrhea is a medical term that refers to when a woman is not menstruating. There are two types of amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea occurs when your first period comes late. The normal age is between 14 and 16 years old. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when you miss your period for 3 consecutive months or more.

Symptoms of Amenorrhea

The main symptom of amenorrhea is the absence of a period. It usually means a larger problem or health condition. Related symptoms may include:

  • Headache. 

  • View changes. Nausea. 

  • Add facial hair. 

  • Hair loss. 

  • Change in breast size. 

  • Milky discharge, or discharge, from the breast.

What Causes Amenorrhea? 

The main causes of primary amenorrhea include family history, genetics, and lifestyle. Women with the following factors are at higher risk:

  • Family history of amenorrhea or early menopause. 

  • A genetic or chromosomal defect. 

  • These can affect your ovarian function and menstrual cycle. Turner syndrome is an example. 

  • Being overweight or severely underweight. 

  • Eating disorder. 

  • An extreme fitness model. 

  • A poor diet. 

  • Stress. 

Pregnancy, lactation, and menopause can cause secondary amenorrhea. Other causes may include:

  • Certain birth control methods, such as the pill, injection, or IUD. These may affect your menstrual cycle during and after use. 

  • Some medications treat depression and blood pressure. 

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 

  • Fragile X syndrome (caused by the FMR1 gene) or fragile X-related primary ovarian failure (FXPOI). 

  • Problems with your thyroid or pituitary gland. 

  • Hypothalamic disease. 

  • Uterine scar tissue.

How To Diagnose Amenorrhea? 

Contact your GP or gynecologist if you think you have amenorrhea. If you've never had a period, your doctor will review your medical history and conduct an exam. Regular physical and pelvic exams can reveal signs of puberty. For secondary amenorrhea, your doctor will start with a pregnancy test. If negative, they will examine you and review your medical history.

Your doctor may order additional tests to rule out or determine a cause. The karyotype test checks your chromosomes. A genetic test looks for the mutated FMR1 gene. Imaging tests can examine your female organs. Blood tests can check for:

  • Thyroid function (thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH levels). 

  • Ovarian function (follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH, and luteinizing hormone, or LH) levels. 

  • Levels of testosterone ("male hormone"), which can detect PCOS. 

  • Levels of estrogen (“female hormone”). 

Can Amenorrhea Be Prevented or Avoided?

It is very difficult to prevent amenorrhea. Try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan. If you are underweight or overweight, talk to your doctor about finding balance. Once you start getting your period, track your period every month. This can help identify amenorrhea in its early stages and aid your diagnosis and treatment. It is also a good practice if you are trying to get pregnant in the future.

Treatment of Amenorrhea

Treatment options for amenorrhea vary depending on the cause. You may need lifestyle changes, such as diet, activity, and stress. Certain hormonal medications and birth control pills can help trigger menstruation. Others can help trigger ovulation, such as for PCOS. Hormone therapy can be used to balance your hormones. 

Surgery is rare, but may be necessary in some cases, such as:

  • To correct genetic or chromosomal defects. 

  • To remove a pituitary (brain) tumor. 

  • To remove uterine scar tissue. 

Living With Amenorrhea

For most women, their periods return after treatment. In some cases, your related health condition may mean that you have never had a period. Depending on your underlying cause, you may be struggling with fertility.

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