Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) (cont.)
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What happens differently in premature ovarian failure?
Currently, researchers are unable to pinpoint exactly what happens in premature ovarian failure to stop normal function of the ovaries in most cases. Remember that the FSH levels are high when the ovaries fail to produce enough estrogen. LH levels also stay high in many cases, even during the occasional times that follicles successfully grow. Mature follicles in the ovaries make estrogen, as well as other substances, including the protein inhibin. Because women with premature ovarian failure have low levels of estrogen, scientists are focusing their attention on the follicles in the ovary in their study of premature ovarian failure.
Follicles in the ovaries start out as microscopic seeds, called primordial (pronounced prime-OR-dee-ul) follicles. These seeds are not yet follicles, but can grow into them. In general, a woman is born with about two million primordial follicles, which should be enough to last her until she goes through menopause. But this may not be the case for a woman with premature ovarian failure. Women with premature ovarian failure may fall into one of two groups.
A woman with follicle depletion has no responsive follicles left in her ovaries. There is no way for the body to make more primordial follicles. And, currently, there is no way for scientists to make primordial follicles. Although scientists haven't identified all the causes of follicle depletion, some known causes include:
A woman with follicle dysfunction still has follicles in her ovaries, but for unknown reasons they are not working properly. Currently, scientists do not have a safe and effective way to make follicles start working normally again. Although they have yet to identify all the causes of follicle dysfunction, some known causes include:
Research also shows that 10 percent to 20 percent of women with premature ovarian failure have a family history of the condition, which could mean that some cases of premature ovarian failure have a genetic component. But, inheritance patterns show that premature ovarian failure is not a purely genetic disorder. Research into the causes of premature ovarian failure is ongoing, in hopes that knowing why it occurs will also help in developing treatments for the disorder.
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