What is amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea is the absence of a menstrual period.

  • Primary amenorrhea is when a young woman has not yet had a period by age 16.
  • Secondary amenorrhea describes someone who used to have a regular period but then it stopped for at least three months (this can include pregnancy).

What are the signs of amenorrhea?

The main sign of amenorrhea is missing a menstrual period.

Regular periods are a sign of overall good health.  Missing a period may mean that you are pregnant or that something is going wrong (see What are the causes of amenorrhea?).  It’s important to tell your health care provider if you miss a period so he or she can begin to find out what is happening in your body.

Amenorrhea itself is not a disease, but is usually a symptom of another condition.  Depending on that condition, a woman might experience other symptoms, such as headache, vision changes, hair loss, or excess facial hair. 

What are the causes of amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea is a symptom of a variety of conditions, ranging from not serious to serious.

  • Primary Amenorrhea

    • Chromosomal or genetic abnormalities can cause the eggs and follicles involved in menstruation to deplete too early in life.
    • Hypothalamic or pituitary diseases and physical problems, such as problems with reproductive organs, can prevent periods from starting.
    • Moderate or excessive exercise, eating disorders (such as anorexia nervosa), extreme physical or psychological stress, or a combination of these can disrupt the normal menstrual cycle.

  • Secondary amenorrhea

    • This problem is much more common than primary amenorrhea.
    • Common causes include many of those listed for primary amenorrhea, as well aspregnancy, certain contraceptives, breastfeeding, mental stress, and certain medications. 
    • Hormonal problems involving the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, ovary, or adrenal glands can also cause amenorrhea.
    • Women who have very low body weight sometimes stop getting their periods as well.
    • Women with premature ovarian failure stop getting regular their periods before naturalmenopause.

What is treatment for amenorrhea?

Treatment for amenorrhea depends on the underlying cause.  Sometimes lifestyle changes can help if weight, stress, or physical activity is causing the amenorrhea.  Other times medications and oral contraceptives can help the problem. 

National institute of Child Health and Human Development ( NICHD )

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