Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation (period) for one or more cycles. Primary amenorrhea occurs when girls aged 15 to 16 have not menstruated yet despite developing other signs of puberty. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when women who have previously menstruated do not experience their cycle for 3 or more months.
Primary amenorrhea is the rarer of the two, and is typically due to hormonal imbalances, rigorous exercise, very low or obese body weight, or extreme stress. Primary amenorrhea is often seen in young competitive athletes. Conditions that produce a hormonal imbalance which may cause amenorrhea include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), under or overactive thyroid, premature menopause, or complications with the pituitary gland.
Secondary amenorrhea can be caused by natural processes like menopause, pregnancy, or breastfeeding. It can also be caused by medications, contraceptives, and lifestyle factors including low body weight, over-exercising, and stress. Complications of continued amenorrhea include infertility and osteoporosis.
Diagnosis of amenorrhea includes examination of the person’s medical history, a physical exam, and blood tests to check for levels of various hormones. Treatment for amenorrhea may include contraceptive pills or hormone therapy, or other medications for pituitary or thyroid disorders. Surgery is a treatment option for those with pituitary tumors or physical complications of the uterus or ovaries.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with amenorrhea, speak with your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups may also be available for further resources and information.
Description Last Updated: Aug 20, 2018