Amenorrhea

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Amenorrhea facts

  • Amenorrhea refers to the absence of menstrual periods; it may be either primary (meaning a woman never developed menstrual periods) or secondary (absence of menstrual periods in a woman who was previously menstruating).
  • Genetic or inborn conditions are the most common causes of primary amenorrhea.
  • Amenorrhea may result from disorders of the ovaries, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, or uterus.
  • Intensive exercising, extreme weight loss, physical illness, and stress can all result in amenorrhea.
  • Amenorrhea is a symptom and not a disease in itself, so amenorrhea can be prevented only to the extent that the underlying cause can be prevented.
  • Infertility and possible bone loss (osteoporosis) are complications of amenorrhea.
  • Treatments may include surgical correction of anatomical abnormalities, medications or hormone therapies, and treatment of any underlying conditions responsible for amenorrhea.
  • The outlook for amenorrhea varies according to the cause of the amenorrhea.

Definition of primary and secondary amenorrhea

Amenorrhea is the medical term for the absence of menstrual periods, either on a permanent or temporary basis. Amenorrhea can be classified as primary or secondary. In primary amenorrhea, menstrual periods have never begun (by age 16), whereas secondary amenorrhea is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for three consecutive cycles or a time period of more than six months in a woman who was previously menstruating.

The menstrual cycle can be influenced by many internal factors such as transient changes in hormonal levels, stress, and illness, as well as external or environmental factors. Missing one menstrual period is rarely a sign of a serious problem or an underlying medical condition, but amenorrhea of longer duration may signal the presence of a disease or chronic condition.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/16/2016

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