Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) (cont.)
How will having premature ovarian failure affect my overall health?
Because of lower hormone levels that result from premature ovarian failure, you are at greater
risk for a number of health conditions. These conditions, and what you can do to
stay healthy, are described below.
- Osteoporosis (pronounced OWS-tee-oh-pour-oh-siss) is
a bone disorder that decreases bone strength and increases the risk for breaks
- Estrogen helps to conserve calcium and other minerals in bones and protects
against bone loss. In premature ovarian failure, the ovaries stop making estrogen, which can cause
women to lose bone density, or bone
strength, one of the major factors leading to osteoporosis.
- Even though osteoporosis is more common in people ages 50 and above, women
with premature ovarian failure may experience the condition at a much younger age.
Are there ways to prevent or treat bone conditions in women with premature
To protect against bone loss, the National Osteoporosis Foundation
recommends that women who are at risk for osteoporosis:
- Get at least 1200 mg of calcium in their diets every
day. If it is not possible to get this amount through diet, take a calcium
- Get between 400 IU and 800 IU of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium,
- Get regular, weight-bearing and muscle-building physical activity.
Weight-bearing physical activity, such as walking, will help build bone
strength. Activities like yoga or tai chi help build muscle strength and improve
An adequate level of estrogen in the body is an important factor in
preventing bone loss that may lead to osteoporosis. The strategies listed here
may slow bone loss, but none of them will prevent bone loss entirely.
Low thyroid function
- This problem is also called hypothyroidism
- The thyroid is a gland, like the ovary, adrenal, and
pituitary glands. It
makes and releases hormones. Specifically, the thyroid makes hormones that
control the body's metabolism and energy
level. Low levels of the hormones made by the thyroid can affect metabolism,
and can cause a woman to have very low energy.
- Symptoms include a slow down in the body's normal
rate of functioning, which can lead to mental and physical sluggishness. Cold
feet are also a feature of low thyroid function.
- A study found that 27.0 percent of women with premature ovarian failure also had low
thyroid function. In the general population, only two percent of all people
(both men and women) have low thyroid function.
Are there ways to prevent or treat low thyroid function in women with
premature ovarian failure?
Replacing the hormone that the thyroid is not making enough of treats this
problem. Usually, you can take a pill to replace the hormone.
- Addison's disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning
the body's immune cells, which normally protect the body from invading cells
and microbes, attack the adrenal glands, part of the endocrine system located
above the kidneys. The adrenal glands produce hormones that regulate the
body's response to stress and its handling of salt.
- Addison's disease is also called primary autoimmune
- Studies suggest that 3.2 percent of women with premature ovarian failure
also have Addison's disease, making them much more likely than members of the
general population to develop the disease.
- Symptoms of Addison's disease include loss of
appetite, weight loss, dizziness when standing, and fatigue. In later stages
of Addison's disease, salt craving, low blood pressure, and darkening of the
skin may occur.
- Research indicates that an adrenal antibody
test is the most effective way to detect Addison's disease in women with
premature ovarian failure.
If the results of this test are positive, a health care provider may order a
second test, called an ACTH stimulation test, to confirm the diagnosis. Both tests involve
collecting blood samples.
Are there ways to prevent or treat Addison's disease in women with
premature ovarian failure?
While there is currently no way to prevent Addison's
disease, the best way to treat it is to find out whether you have it. You can
easily manage the condition with the help of your health care provider, by
taking medication that replaces the hormones your adrenal glands are not making.
If left untreated, however, the disease can be life threatening because the body
can't respond properly to stressful events, such as severe illness, injury, or
Researchers now recommend that health care providers
screen all women who have confirmed premature ovarian failure for Addison's disease using the adrenal
antibody test, although such screening is not yet standard practice. If women
with undetected Addison's disease undergo an exceptional physical stress, such
as surgery or a car accident, they are at risk for an "adrenal crisis," a
situation that can lead to shock and even death. Therefore, screening for the disease is especially
important before a woman with premature ovarian failure has surgery or undergoes other known physical
- While it is very rare for a young woman with premature ovarian failure to
develop heart disease, certain factors related to the disorder might increase
her chances of developing heart disease later in life.
- Lower levels of estrogen in premature ovarian failure can lead to higher levels of low-density
cholesterol. LDL is known as
"bad" cholesterol because it is the main source
of the buildup and blockage in arteries that can lead to heart attacks.
- Lower levels of estrogen in premature ovarian failure can also lead to lower levels of
high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol,
known as "good" cholesterol because it helps prevent buildup and blockage in
- After some time, buildup of cholesterol in the
arteries can cause "hardening of the arteries," which means that the blood
flow to the heart is slowed down or blocked. Blood carries oxygen to the
heart. If the heart can't get enough oxygen, a person may have chest pain. If the blood supply to part of
the heart is cut off completely, because of blockage, the result is a heart
Are there ways to prevent heart disease in women with premature ovarian
Getting adequate estrogen therapy may help guard against heart disease.
Estrogen helps the body by:
- Keeping the lining of the arteries healthy
- Relaxing muscles that control arteries to allow
better blood flow to tissues
- Normalizing LDL and HDL levels to decrease
cholesterol build up in the arteries that could lead to blockage Maintaining a
healthy body weight and getting regular physical activity are important in
reducing the risk of heart disease. These factors can affect your cholesterol
level, which, in turn, can affect your risk for heart disease. Other risk
factors for heart disease include:
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure (defined as 140/90 mm/Hg or
higher, or being on blood pressure medication)
- High blood cholesterol
- Family history of
- Age: women—55 years or older
Talk to your health care provider about heart disease to determine what
steps, if any, you should take to lower your risk.
- Among women with premature ovarian failure, studies show that 13.8 percent of women with a family
history of premature ovarian failure, and 2.1 percent of women without a family history of
premature ovarian failure may
also have a mild form of Fragile X syndrome.
- Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition that arises
because of an error in a single gene. In women with an affected gene, the
symptoms can range from none at all, to learning disabilities and problems
with math, to a slightly higher risk of anxiety disorder. Women who have an
affected gene may pass it on to their children, who may experience learning
disabilities and other problems as a result.
- If you have a confirmed diagnosis of premature ovarian failure, you should
talk to your health care provider about Fragile X syndrome and tests to find
abnormalities in the Fragile X gene.
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Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) - Symptoms
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Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) - Treatment
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