The Basics of Menstrual Disorders

The Basics of Menstrual Disorders <i>(cont'd)</i>

Amenorrhea — No Bleeding

Some women don't have heavy menstrual bleeding — they have the opposite problem: no menstrual periods at all. This condition, called amenorreha, or the absence of menstruation, is normal before puberty, after menopause and during pregnancy. If you don't have a monthly period and don't fit into one of these categories, then you need to discuss your condition with your health care professional.

  • Primary amenorrhea: is diagnosed if you reach the age of 18 and haven't yet begun to menstruate. It's usually caused by some problem in your endocrine system, which regulates your hormones. This medical condition can be caused by a number of things, such as a problem with your ovaries, your nervous system, your adrenal glands or an abnormally functioning pituitary gland that affects how you mature at puberty. Birth defects that prevent some of your reproductive anatomy from developing normally (Turner's syndrome, for example) are other causes of primary amenorrhea.
  • Secondary amenorrhea: is diagnosed if you've had regular periods, but then they suddenly stop for at least three months or longer. This condition can be precipitated by other problems that affect estrogen levels, including stress, weight loss, exercise or illness; or problems affecting the pituitary (elevated levels of the hormone prolactin), thyroid (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) or adrenal glands (Cushing's disease, for example). Secondary amenorrhea can also occur if you've had an ovarian tumor or have had your ovaries surgically removed. Celiac disease, which causes abnormalities in the digestive tract, is also associated with late puberty, early menopause and amenorrhea.