- Primary amenorrhea
- No menses by age 13 years with absence of secondary sexual characteristics OR
- No menses by age 15 years with normal secondary characteristics
- Secondary amenorrhea: cessation of menses for 3 months if previously normal menstrual cycles or 6 months if a history of irregular cycles
- System(s) affected: endocrine/metabolic; reproductive
Pregnancy is by far the most common cause of secondary amenorrhea.
- Primary amenorrhea: <1% of female population
- Secondary amenorrhea: 3–4% of female population
- No evidence for race and ethnicity affecting prevalence
Etiology and Pathophysiology
Absence of menses that can be temporary, intermittent, or permanent due to dysfunction of the hypothalamus, pituitary, uterus, ovaries, or vagina
- Primary amenorrhea
- Gonadal dysgenesis (e.g., Turner syndrome [45,X]) or failure (e.g., autoimmune, idiopathic)
- Anatomic abnormalities (e.g., müllerian agenesis, imperforate hymen, transverse vaginal septum)
- Hypothalamic-pituitary abnormalities
- Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (abnormal GnRH secretion, stress, exercise, anorexia nervosa)
- Physiological delay of puberty
- Central lesions (tumors, hypophysitis, granulomas)
- Pituitary dysfunction (hyperprolactinemia, abnormal follicle-stimulating hormone [FSH], luteinizing hormone [LH], or GnRH)
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Androgen insensitivity syndrome
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Secondary amenorrhea
- Hypothalamic dysfunction (reduced GnRH secretion)
- Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (stress, anorexia nervosa, and/or excessive exercise)
- Hypothalamic tumors
- Severe systemic illness (e.g., diabetes mellitus type 1 or celiac disease)
- Pituitary disease (e.g., hyperprolactinemia, Sheehan syndrome, Cushing syndrome)
- Thyroid disease
- Ovarian disorders (e.g., primary ovarian insufficiency [due to chemotherapy, radiation, fragile X syndrome] or ovarian tumors)
- Anatomic abnormalities (e.g., intrauterine adhesions [Asherman syndrome])
- Pathophysiology varies, depending on etiology.
May occur with Turner syndrome or testicular feminization
- Excessive exercise (commonly associated “female athlete triad”)
- Eating disorders
- Stress (emotional or illness-induced)
- Family history of amenorrhea or early menopause
- Treatment with antipsychotic medications
Maintenance of proper body mass index (BMI) and healthy lifestyle with respect to food and exercise
Commonly Associated Conditions
- Primary ovarian insufficiency may be associated with autoimmune abnormalities (autoimmune thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes).
- PCOS is associated with insulin resistance and obesity.
- Decreased exposure to estrogen may increase risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis.
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