Missing: Your Period…about Amenorrhea

Today we will be spotlighting Amenorrhea, which is condition in which absent menstruation occurs in women. If you feel like this is something you may be experiencing, consult your physician for further diagnosis.

The facts:

Amenorrhea is a medical term that means the absence of menstruation.  It’s considered a symptom and not a disease because it usually results from another condition.  There are numerous reasons for a missed period for females that are not pregnant, lactating, or in menopause.  Luckily, most of the conditions that cause amenorrhea respond to treatment.

There are actually two types of Amenorrhea, primary and secondary.
Primary amenorrhea refers to a first period that has not occurred in a female by the age of 16.  Most girls begin menstruating around the age of 12.  There are numerous causes of primary amenorrhea.  Some of the most common causes include chromosomal abnormalities, pituitary disease or tumor, vaginal obstruction, being born without all of the female reproductive organs, and problems with the hypothalamus in the brain.  The hypothalamus is a structure that helps regulate menstruation.  Anorexia and excessive exercise or stress can disrupt the normal function of the hypothalamus.

Secondary amenorrhea occurs much more frequently than primary amenorrhea.  Secondary amenorrhea refers to absent periods in females that have already started menstruating and that are not pregnant, breast feeding, or in menopause.  There are numerous causes of secondary amenorrhea. Common causes include birth control pill, contraceptive shots, contraceptive implants, stress, certain medications, hormonal imbalance, polycystic ovary disease, low body weight or body fat, excessive exercise, thyroid problems, pituitary tumor, uterine scar tissue, and premature menopause.

Symptoms
The primary symptom of amenorrhea is no menstrual period.  Primary amenorrhea is characterized by no first menstrual period by the age of 16.  For females that have menstruated, secondary amenorrhea is characterized in as no periods for six months or longer.  Females with secondary amenorrhea may experience other symptoms that are associated with the underlying cause of amenorrhea.

Treatment
The type of treatment that you receive depends on the cause of your amenorrhea.  Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as attaining and maintaining a healthy weight, stress reduction, and an appropriate amount of exercise.  Polycystic ovary syndrome or athletic amenorrhea may be treated with oral contraceptives.  Thyroid or pituitary disorders may be corrected with medications or surgery.  Most of the underlying conditions that cause amenorrhea are treatable.

Prevention
You can help prevent amenorrhea by reducing the risk factors that you can control.  It is helpful to attain and maintain a healthy weight to exercise, but avoid excessive exercise.  Stress reduction techniques and positive support from positive resources, such as friends, family, co-workers, or counselors can help.  Keep a record of your menstrual cycles and note any symptoms that bother you.  Bring your record to your doctor’s appointment.