Women

Causes and Symptoms of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a medical condition which is characterized by the absence of a menstrual cycle for several months. This condition occurs due to faulty hormone production and regulation by your hypothalamus. There are many circumstantial and behavioral factors which lead to the development of this type of amenorrhea.

The mode of treatment is based on the cause of dysfunction and may need lifestyle as well as dietary changes. Also, prescription medication may be given to regain a proper ovulation and menstruation cycle.

An Overview

Hypothalamic amenorrhea

Hypothalamic dysfunction is a medical condition which is characterized by interruption or the stopping of the menstrual cycle for several months. This happens when a problem occurs in the hypothalamus.

What are the Causes?

The hypothalamus is known as the epicenter of communication which controls reproductive function and influences menstruation. It produces the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). When this hormone is released, it induces the production of several other hormones important for menstruation, such as the luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). When the hypothalamus stops the production of GnRH, communication switches off. This halts the process of ovulation and menstruation.

What are the Symptoms?

Causes and Symptoms of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Hypothalamus dysfunction can occur due to various circumstances:

  • Women who have a low body weight when compared with their height or tend to excessively exercise can develop this condition.
  • Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can induce the associated symptoms.
  • Severe emotional stress can easily interfere with the function of the hypothalamus, which causes an disruption in the hormone regulation.
  • Other additional factors can also lead to the condition, such as a thyroid malfunction and presence of a tumor.
  • Some other symptoms of hypothalamic dysfunction can occur, that are highly variable and are based on the underlying cause of the condition. For instance, symptoms of male hormone excess or hormonal imbalance may include acne, deepening of the voice, unwanted hair growth and irregular menstrual period.

Hence, it is important to consult your doctor if you notice any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms.

Diagnosis of Hypothalamic Dysfunction

Diagnosis of this condition involves considering a few other possibilities as to why the menstrual cycle has stopped. Your doctor, for example, may want to ensure that you are not expecting, or have any other disorder that is causing the problem. A pelvic examination and medical history are crucial in diagnosing any ovulatory dysfunction. Here are a few other tests which are done to diagnose hypothalamic amenorrhea:

  • Hormonal studies – Blood tests which measure the hormone levels like prolactin, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Low levels of LH and FSH may point out hypothalamic amenorrhea.
  • Progesterone challenge – This test induces menstrual bleeding in those women who are suffering with specific types of amenorrhea.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) – This is a 3-D scan which results in an image of your pituitary gland in order to detect a tumor.

Hence, all these tests are done to diagnose the dysfunction in women who suffer from this condition.

What is the Treatment?

The treatment includes lifestyle and dietary changes along with the administration of medication. People for whom this condition was aggravated due to excessive exercise are usually told to minimize their workout intensity and follow less strenuous exercises.

Hypothalamus dysfunction due to diet can be corrected by adopting healthier eating habits. Drug therapy is used to treat the condition. Oral contraceptives or fertility medications can be administered to induce hormone regulation as well as restore ovulation.

Women with hypothalamic amenorrhea are also at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis in the later stages. Low levels of estrogen are linked with hypothalamic dysfunction and it can lead to bone loss as well as impair cardiovascular function.

Reference Link

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMcp0912024

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