Amenorrhea


Amenorrhea is the absence or interruption of menstrual periods. It is a symptom, not an illness, and its cause should be determined. There are two types of amenorrhea: primary amenorrhea (failure of menstruation to occur at puberty) and secondary amenorrhea (interruption of menstruation). Although the first thing that women generally think of is pregnancy, there are many other causes.

Causes

Cause is based on the type of amenorrhea.

Primary amenorrhea
  • Imperforate hymen (the thin sheath that partially covers the vagina)
  • Genital abnormalities
  • Delay in pubertal development
Secondary amenorrhea
  • Interruption of contraceptives (the pill)
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Excessive and demanding physical exercise (ex.: ballet, bodybuilding, gymnastics, etc.)
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Certain medications (ex.: chemotherapy, corticosteroids, etc.)
  • Contraceptives
  • Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia)
  • Stress or psychological trauma

Diagnosis

For many women, the absence or interruption of menstruation can be quite worrisome. For those who are sexually active, it may be wise to take a pregnancy test (available in your local pharmacy). However, one should not be too troubled over a late period.

If you have not had a period in 3 months or if a 16 year old woman has not yet had a period, it is advised that your seek medical attention to identify the source of the problem. The physician will conduct a physical as well as a gynaecological examination to ascertain the condition of the genital organs. Blood tests may also prove useful to verify hormone levels in the blood. If the cause is still unclear, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or an ultrasound may be necessary.

Treatment

Treating amenorrhea obviously depends on its cause. Simply making a few lifestyle changes (achieving a healthy weight, reducing stress, etc.) may remedy the situation. In other cases, the physician may prescribe a hormone or contraceptive treatment. If stress or an eating disorder is the source of the problem, psychotherapy may also be beneficial.

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