What is Amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea is the term used to describe the condition where menstrual periods are absent. When you miss a period, your first thought may be that you are pregnant. However there are actually several factors that may cause or contribute to the absence of menstruation.
Menstruation refers to the shedding of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) each month, and it is also commonly known as the menstrual period.
Menstrual periods usually last for five to seven days. In order for a woman to have regular menstrual cycles, her hypothalamus, pituitary gland, ovaries and uterus must be functioning properly. Her cervix and vagina must also be structured normally to allow for menstrual blood to pass through.
Types of Amenorrhea
Amenorrhea is classified into two types – primary and secondary amenorrhea.
Primary Amenorrhea - Primary amenorrhea occurs when a woman has not yet had her first menstrual period by the age of 16. This delayed period is usually due to late puberty, most common in teenage girls who are either very thin or very athletic. When young women are underweight, their bodies have yet to experience the normal puberty-related rise in body fat that sparks off the beginning of menstruation. On the other hand, the delay of menstruation may also be as a result of abnormal female reproductive organs or a genetic disorder involving the sex chromosomes such as Turner’s syndrome.
Secondary Amenorrhea - Secondary amenorrhea is a condition in which a woman who previously had normal, regular menstrual cycles experiences irregular or absent periods.
Amenorrhea affects 2% to 5% of all women of childbearing age in the United States. Secondary amenorrhea can affect all women who have begun menstruating. Young women who are involved in sports where intense exercise is required like ballet, long distance running or gymnastics are more likely to be affected with amenorrhea.
Amenorrhea is a symptom in itself. Depending on the cause of amenorrhea, you may experience the absence of periods together with various symptoms of hormone imbalance such as breast milk secretions, headache, weight gain, acne, altered sex drive low libido, lowering of the voice, excessive hair growth on the face and body, and vision changes.