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If you are curious about what Amenorrhea is because you have been diagnosed with it or have come across the term on the internet, here are some of the things that you should know. Let’s start with the basics first:
What Is Amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea is a condition in which women in their adolescence fail to get their first period even after they come of age (average 16 years of age is considered the point at which female teenagers normally get their first period). Amenorrhea’s definition can also be the term used to define the condition of women who have failed to menstruate three times in a row when their period was due.
When a female body is facing a hormonal imbalance such as during pregnancy, during extensive birth control regimens, during lactation, or a few months before they experience menopause (perimenopause to be precise) or when the female body experiences tremendous changes in hormone levels, amenorrhea is a common occurrence. This is the broadest-spectrum of amenorrhea’s definition.
Pregnenolone and amenorrhea do not always have a simple explanation as mentioned above and it may indicate a serious underlying condition that leads to the imbalance causing amenorrhea. Pregnenolone as a hormone and amenorrhea can also affect the normal functioning of metabolism in a female as major hormones, i.e. estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone experience fluctuation in their production. This can inadvertently lead to lethargy, weakness, changes in mood, and drastic loss of libido along with loss of a periodic menstrual cycle. Read more here about progesterone, DHEA and amenorrhea challenge.
Amenorrhea Signs and Symptoms
The most significant indication of amenorrhea is the loss of a regular menstrual period but it does not end at that. Given that amenorrhea affects the ability of a female metabolism to regulate hormone production, amenorrhea signs and symptoms frequently include skin and hair problems such as acne, excessive body hair especially in the facial area, and loss of hair. Women have also reported discharge of milky liquid from nipples, altered vision, and mild to severe headaches as well as pain in the pelvis. Experts argue that the nature and frequency of associated signs & symptoms depend upon the cause of amenorrhea and its severity.
Types of Amenorrhea
Doctors specializing in amenorrhea usually divide it into two types:
- Primary amenorrhea
- Secondary amenorrhea
Primary amenorrhea is defined as the amenorrhea experienced by adolescent girls who fail to have their first period at a certain age (on average 16 years). This age can change depending upon certain factors.
On the other hand, secondary amenorrhea is defined as the amenorrhea in women who do not experience menstrual bleeding regularly but have had regular menstrual cycles before. This amenorrhea is also defined as when a woman who previously had menstrual bleeding misses three or more menstrual cycles consecutively.
Amenorrhea isn’t just the lack of a menstrual cycle, as amenorrhea is the disorder involving the production of hormones in the female body; therefore, some associated signs & symptoms are also reported by women, such as skin and hair problems and altered vision. When the associated symptoms become serious it is suggested to consult a specialist doctor immediately. In some other cases, experts have also highlighted the importance of not confusing very little menstrual cycle in which there is light bleeding with amenorrhea, as with amenorrhea there is no bleeding at all.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea is another type of amenorrhea, which is related to the production of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH). The production of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone is controlled by a specific part of the midbrain known as the hypothalamus.
In Hypothalamic amenorrhea, the production of GnRH is affected because of certain conditions of the hypothalamus leading to failure of the normal menstrual cycle. In the absence or insufficient production of GnRH, other hormones for ovulation such as Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) are also affected; hence, a complete failure of the female reproductive system to conceive occurs. If this kind of amenorrhea persists then it can lead to problems of the reproductive system such as infertility.
Another less worrisome kind of amenorrhea is lactational amenorrhea. It is a temporary type of amenorrhea and the normal menstrual cycle is restored after a certain time. Lactational amenorrhea is experienced by new mothers postpartum and usually exists as long as they are nursing their new-born full time.
What are the causes of Amenorrhea?
After reading about the types of amenorrhea, it is very common to ask the question, what are the causes of amenorrhea. There are several causes including pregnancy and postpartum nursing but this kind of amenorrhea is natural as the female body undergoes hormonal imbalance in these situations.
Other major causes of amenorrhea are the conditions causing hormonal imbalance in the body. This can be due to another underlying disorder and even due to unhealthful lifestyle choices. In this case, as soon as the underlying condition is mitigated, the normal menstrual cycle is restored.
There are some serious conditions as well which can present amenorrhea as a symptom. These include ovarian insufficiency, PCOS, and certain tumors of hormone regulatory factions of the human body leading to disruption in the menstrual cycle.
Ways to Diagnose Amenorrhea
In order to rule out natural causes, the doctor will first recommend that the patient of amenorrhea take a pregnancy test. Once it is clear that there is no pregnancy then the next step is to take a hormone blood test or saliva hormone test. Quantities of certain hormones and their stimulating factors can be assessed by taking a hormone blood, or better yet saliva test and this test usually leads to the root cause, in most cases, of amenorrhea originating because of underlying conditions.
Another test for detecting the cause of amenorrhea is taking a progesterone challenge test. Progesterone is the precursor of estrogen; therefore, in the progesterone challenge test a person is given doses of progesterone for a period of ten days and checked for sufficient estrogen levels to trigger menstruation. If menstruation occurs then low levels of estrogen are marked as the cause of amenorrhea.
How to Fix Amenorrhea?
Once the cause of amenorrhea is determined, then it is imperative to know how to correct it. Oral contraceptives was once the suggested way to regulate hormone levels in the body leading to menstruation. But BCP only masks the underlying reasons by forcing the shedding of the lining but not producing an egg and therefore true ovulation. The resolution of uterine problems such as cysts, by following doctor suggested progesterone therapies, can also be effective in PCOS. Insulin regulation by metformin is also very effective in ovarian conditions and usually helps in ovulation.
Best Supplements for Amenorrhea
Essential vitamins (K & D) and essential minerals such as magnesium along with calcium are effective in helping women restore these essential commodities in their bones, leading to a lower risk of osteoporosis even in the case of amenorrhea. Vitamin B6 is also one of the best supplements for amenorrhea as it helps in reducing the levels of prolactin in the body which are usually very high in women suffering from amenorrhea.