Understanding Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea is a condition that's characterised by loss of menstruation, which leaves women unable to become pregnant. This can be a distressing diagnosis for women of childbearing age, but there are a range of treatment options to explore. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for amenorrhea:

Causes And Symptoms

Some women develop amenorrhea due to natural hormonal changes that take place during menopause and when breastfeeding, while others develop the condition as a symptom of another medical problem, such as hyperthyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome.  Additionally, it can occur as a side effect of certain prescription medications, such as some antidepressants and blood pressure drugs. Lifestyle factors, such as prolonged episodes of stress and being underweight, are also thought to play a part in some cases of amenorrhea.

Aside from cessation of menstruation, common symptoms of amenorrhea include headache, hair loss and acne. Pelvic pain is also commonly reported, and in some people this can have a significant impact on their ability to carry out normal daily activities. Additionally, sufferers may develop depression due to the impact of the condition on their fertility.

Diagnosis And Treatment

In order to diagnose amenorrhea, your doctor will take details of your symptoms and the history of your menstrual cycle. They may carry out an internal pelvic exam to check for structural abnormalities, and the focus of any diagnostic testing you undergo will be to determine the cause of the condition. Blood samples will be taken to check thyroid function, inflammatory markers and reproductive hormone levels, and diagnostic imaging, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, can be used to check the reproductive organs and surrounding soft tissues for any abnormalities.

Treatment for amenorrhea is dependent on the suspected cause of the condition. You may be prescribed medication to balance your hormones, or you may be advised to change medication you are currently taking if it's thought amenorrhoea may be a side effect of that medication. If lifestyle factors are a concern, you may be referred for counselling to learn how to manage stress in a healthy way, or you may be referred to a dietician for support to gain weight. If diagnostic imaging shows any structural abnormality or if cysts are present, you may need to undergo investigative surgery. Common procedures involve having cysts removed or a narrowed fallopian tube dilated.

If your periods have stopped, don't be tempted to ignore the issue or self-diagnose. Amenorrhea can often be successfully treated, so consult with a gynaecologist and get the support you need to get your reproductive health back on track.