Amenorrhea could be described as the absence of menstrual periods. A diagnosis of primary amenorrhea is made if a young woman has reached the age of 16 and has never had a menstrual period. A diagnosis of secondary amenorrhea is made is a woman who has been menstruating stops having menstrual periods for six months or more.
Primary amenorrhea can be the result of an outflow blockage. In some women, a genetic variation causes irregular development of the uterus and vagina or results in these organs never developing at all. Women who have undergone radiation or chemotherapy, use illicit drugs, or have a chronic illness may also experience this condition. Primary amenorrhea can also be caused by lifestyle. Young women who engage is athletics like ballet, swimming, diving, gymnastics, and distance running may have female athlete triad syndrome which causes primary amenorrhea. This syndrome is generally defined by the absence of menstruation, disordered eating, and excessive exercise.
The hypothalamus is an area of the brain that controls the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland controls the reproductive organs. The reproductive organs control the menstrual cycle. In the case of hypothalamic amenorrhea, the hypothalamus does not instigate the proper chain of events. A lack of estrogen, a key hormone in the menstrual cycle, causes an irregular menstrual cycle.
Primary amenorrhea requires treatment by a doctor. Once the cause of the primary amenorrhea is determined, the proper treatment, if any, can be prescribed. If the patient lacks a vagina or uterus, nothing can be done. Outflow problems can be corrected surgically. In the case of female athlete triad syndrome contraceptive pills along with lifestyle changes can correct the problem. If the pituitary gland or thyroid is at fault, medications can also be used to restore balance. Untreated primary amenorrhea can result in premenstrual osteoporosis and infertility.