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Amenorrhea: What Causes Missed Periods?

Amenorrhea: What Causes Missed Periods?
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Amenorrhea

missed periods


Amenorrhea refers to a woman having missed periods that are not due to being pregnant. Missing at least three periods consecutively without being pregnant is considered amenorrhea. Amenorrhea also includes young women who have not started their menstrual cycle by the age of sixteen.

What Causes Amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea can occur on its own, but it most often stems from an underlying condition. This can include:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Eating disorders
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Sudden weight gain/loss
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Excessive exercising
  • Chronic illness
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Brain cancer

Types of Amenorrhea

Primary Amenorrhea

Primary amenorrhea refers to young women who still have not started their menstrual cycle by the age of 16. The average age of onset for the menstrual cycle is between the ages of 11 and 15. If a girl reaches the age of 16 without beginning her period, this is considered primary amenorrhea.

Secondary Amenorrhea

Secondary amenorrhea refers to a woman abruptly missing her period for at least three consecutive months without being pregnant. Secondary amenorrhea is often caused by an underlying condition.

missed periods

Amenorrhea Symptoms

  • Missed periods for at least 3 consecutive months
  • Not starting the menstrual cycle by the age of 16

Diagnosing Amenorrhea

Your primary care physician can often diagnose amenorrhea based solely on reported symptoms. They will likely refer you to a gynecologist to check for underlying causes. Testing for an underlying cause will include bloodwork panels to check thyroid levels. They will also perform a pelvic exam, in which they manually palpate the ovaries to check for cysts or growths. CT (computed tomography) scans or pelvic ultrasounds can also be used to check for any issues.

Treating Amenorrhea

missed periods

Birth control pills can be used to restore the menstrual cycle to normal.

Depending on the underlying cause, amenorrhea may need no treatment at all. Treating the underlying cause will often restore the menstrual cycle to normal. For amenorrhea that occurs on its own, taking birth control pills usually restores the menstrual cycle to normal.

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