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A daughter coming of age that is, entering the age of puberty is often when most mothers feel anxious. Puberty in girls marks the time when she starts developing breasts and other features of an adult woman. One main event during this phase is beginning of the menstruation cycle. In some young girls, menstruation starts late or at times, stops having periods after their start. This becomes a cause of worry for parents. This condition is called as amenorrhea medically.

What is Amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea is a condition that involves a woman who misses 3 cycles of menstruation or a girl does not start with menstruation by 16 years, it is called as amenorrhea.

The absence of periods is quite normal during pregnancy and when the woman is breastfeeding. However, if absence of periods is seen other than these two scenarios, it indicates amenorrhea.

Types of Amenorrhea

There are two types of amenorrhea that can lead to absence of monthly bleeding. They include primary and secondary amenorrhea.

  • Primary amenorrhea

Absence of periods by the age of 16 is termed as primary amenorrhea. Also, those girls who do not develop secondary sexual characteristics are also said to undergo primary amenorrhea.

  • Secondary amenorrhea

When regular menstruation suddenly ceases to occur, causing the woman to miss three consecutive cycles it is called as secondary amenorrhea. Also, women who suffer from irregular periods suffer from absence of periods for 9 months is said to undergo secondary amenorrhea.

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Causes of Amenorrhea

The natural causes of amenorrhea include pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. Other than that, there are many factors that lead to amenorrhea. L

Causes of Primary Amenorrhea

Primary amenorrhea can occur due to the following causes:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Overactive or underactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism)
  • Pituitary tumor
  • A congenital birth defect that causes missing reproductive organs like the uterus, cervix, ovaries or even a vagina.
  • Structural abnormalities in the vagina like presence of membrane that blocks the uterus and cervix.

Causes of Secondary Amenorrhea

Secondary amenorrhea can be caused by:

  • Birth control pills or contraceptive pills taken by women can cause temporary cessation of periods.
  • Use of certain medications can lead to stopping of menstruation like antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, blood pressure drugs as well as chemotherapy drugs.
  • Those who undergo a dilation and curettage (D&C), cesarean, etc. can suffer from scar formation. This can lead to prevention of normal shedding of the uterine lining, leading to secondary amenorrhea.
  • Emotional stress, weight loss, anorexia, bulimia, hormonal changes can also trigger secondary amenorrhea.
  • Women athletes who undergo vigorous exercises, diet as well as maintenance of certain body weight can lead to amenorrhea.

Symptoms of Amenorrhea

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Amenorrhea is itself a symptom of an underlying condition. Missed periods is the main sign of amenorrhea. Other symptoms include:

  • Loss of hair
  • Galactorrhea (milky discharge from the breasts in a woman who is not nursing)
  • Increase in body hair
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Pain in stomach or pelvic region

Diagnosis of Amenorrhea

The doctor may ask for a history of the menstrual cycle. Other than that, he/she may carry out a through physical and pelvic examination. Blood and urine samples may be taken to check for any hormonal abnormality.

Treatment for Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea is treated by answering the underlying condition. This includes medications for treating hormonal imbalance. Surgery to correct any abnormality in the reproductive organs, and radiation therapy to treat any type of cancer causing amenorrhea.

Other treatments involve changes in diet, exercise as well as counseling for treating anorexia. The patient is taught ways to manage stress and overcome emotional upheaval.

If you miss your periods and suffering from other symptoms, seek medical help. The best way to prevent amenorrhea is to live a healthy lifestyle. Undergo regular physical and pelvic examinations to keep away cancerous growth. Amenorrhea could indicate serious disorders that are either genetic or development of fibroids. Thus, it is better to get oneself examined and treated on time for amenorrhea.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 23, 2015

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