Amenorrhea (uh-men-o-REE-uh) is the absence of menstruation — one or more missed menstrual periods. Women who have missed at least three menstrual periods in a row have amenorrhea, as do girls who haven't begun menstruation by the age of 16.
The most common cause of amenorrhea is pregnancy. Other causes of amenorrhea include problems with the reproductive organs or with the glands that help regulate hormone levels. Treatment of the underlying condition often resolves amenorrhea.
The main indication of amenorrhea is that you don't have menstrual periods. Depending on the cause of amenorrhea, you might experience other signs or symptoms along with the absence of periods, such as:
When to see a doctor
Amenorrhea can occur for a variety of reasons. Some are part of the normal course of a woman's life, while others may be a side effect of medications or a sign of a medical problem.
Factors that may increase your risk of amenorrhea may include:
Complications of amenorrhea may include:
Preparing for your appointment
Your first appointment will likely be with your primary care physician or a gynecologist.
Because appointments can be brief, and it can be difficult to remember everything you want to discuss, it's a good idea to prepare in advance of your appointment.
What you can do
Questions you might ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
During your appointment, speak up if you don't understand something. It's important that you understand the reason for any tests or treatments that are recommended.
Tests and diagnosis
During your appointment, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam to check for any problems with your reproductive organs. If you've never had a period, your doctor may examine your breasts and genitals to see if you're experiencing the normal changes of puberty. Amenorrhea can encompass a complex set of hormonal problems. Finding the underlying cause can take time and may require more than one kind of testing.
Hormone challenge test
Treatments and drugs
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of your amenorrhea. In some cases, contraceptive pills can restart your menstrual cycles. Amenorrhea caused by thyroid or pituitary disorders may be treated with medications. If a tumor or structural blockage is causing the problem, surgery may be necessary.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Some lifestyle factors can cause amenorrhea, so strive for balance in work, recreation and rest. Assess areas of stress and conflict in your life. If you can't decrease stress on your own, ask for help from family, friends or your doctor.
Be aware of changes in your menstrual cycle and check with your doctor if you have concerns. Keep a record of when your periods occur. Note the date your period starts, how long it lasts and any troublesome symptoms you experience.
Last Updated: 2011-05-17
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