Amenorrhea (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of amenorrhea?

Primary or secondary amenorrhea (respectively) is considered to be present when a girl has:

  • not developed menstrual periods by age 16; or
  • a woman who has previously had a menstrual cycle stops having menstrual periods for three cycles in a row, or for a time period of six months or more and is not pregnant.

Other symptoms and signs may be present, which are highly variable and depend upon the underlying cause of the amenorrhea. For example, symptoms of hormonal imbalance or male hormone excess can include irregular menstrual periods, unwanted hair growth, deepening of the voice, and acne. Elevated prolactin levels as a cause of amenorrhea can result in galactorrhea (a milky discharge from the nipples that is not related to normal breastfeeding).

When should I seek medical care for amenorrhea?

It is always appropriate to seek medical attention for amenorrhea. Amenorrhea that is not related to pregnancy or the menopausal transition (time when there has been no menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months and no other biological or physiological cause can be identified, and the female is at the end of her biological-determined child bearing years) should be further investigated to rule out serious conditions that may result in amenorrhea.

How is amenorrhea diagnosed?

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The diagnosis of amenorrhea requires a careful medical history to document the presence of amenorrhea as well as any other coexisting medical conditions that may be the cause of amenorrhea. A physical examination, including a pelvic examination is also performed.

Depending upon the results of the history and physical examination further diagnostic tests may be ordered. Blood tests may be ordered to examine the levels of ovarian, pituitary, and thyroid hormones. These tests may include measurements of prolactin, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSA), estrogen, thyrotropin, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), and testosterone. For some individuals, a pregnancy test is the first test performed.

Imaging studies, such as ultrasound, X-ray, and CT or MRI scanning may also be recommended in certain individuals to help establish the cause of amenorrhea.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2013

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