If you get cramps and bloating, the idea of missing a few periods may sound like a dream-come-true, but if you’re not pregnant and have missed one or more periods, you may have a condition called amenorrhea, which can have health consequences. Primary amenorrhea is the name given to the condition when there are no menstrual periods by age 16. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when you were having a regular period but then it stops for three months or more.
Amenorrhea causes Pregnancy is the most likely reason for missing a period in a healthy, sexually active woman. Amenorrhea is generally not the result of a serious condition, although not knowing why your period stopped can be a source of stress. Causes of primary amenorrhea include chromosomal abnormalities, pituitary disease or problems with the hypothalamus, the control centre in the brain that regulates menstruation, resulting from excessive exercise or an eating disorder, such as Anorexia nervosa. Secondary amenorrhea is more common and may be caused by taking contraceptive pills or discontinuing them, breastfeeding, stress, a thyroid disorder, ortaking a medication, such as antidepressants.
Amenorrhea symptoms Not having a period is the main symptom of amenorrhea. Depending on the underlying condition that is causing it, other symptoms may include headache, vision changes, a milky discharge from the nipples and excessive hair growth.
Amenorrhea diagnosis/tests Talk to your doctor who will perform a physical examination and may need to conduct a series of tests to rule out potential causes of your missing periods. These may include a pregnancy test, pelvic exam to look for problems in the reproductive organs and imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, to check for pituitary tumours or reproductive abnormalities. Blood tests to check your thyroid function and/or a progestin challenge test, which involves taking hormonal medication for seven to ten days to trigger a period, which will indicate if your period has stopped as a result of an estrogen deficiency, may also be recommended.
Amenorrhea treatment The root cause of the amenorrhea will determine the treatment. A doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, depending on weight and physical activity levels, or prescribe medication to treat an underlying condition, such as thyroid disorder or polycystic ovary syndrome. Treating the underlying condition causing amenorrhea often resolves the problem.
Amenorrhea prevention Preventing amenorrhea is possible depending on what’s causing it. For example, if excessive exercise is to blame, then scaling down to a more moderate exercise routine may be helpful.