What is amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual periods. There are two types of amenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea (PA) is the absence of periods by the age of 16. Secondary amenorrhea (SA) is a condition whereby a woman misses her period for 3 and more consecutive months. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is the most common cause of secondary amenorrhea.
Studies show that approximately 50% of women who exercise on a regular basis experience abnormal menstrual cycles and about 30% have amenorrhea.
What is hypothalamic amenorrhea?
Hypothalamic amenorrhea also referred to as hypothalamic hypogonadism is a condition whereby a woman does not get her menses due to an abnormality of the pulsatile release of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
This abnormality is attributed to poor diet, chronic stress, or too much exercise. If you have hypothalamic amenorrhea, it means that you are not getting enough calories in your body, which is why it is common in women who are anorexic.
It may also mean that you are exercising too much or you are under too much stress. In fact, studies indicate that hypothalamic amenorrhea is common in dancers and performance athletes.
What causes hypothalamic amenorrhea?
The following are some common causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Physiologic causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.
Hormonal disturbances are common in women who are under a lot of stress. If you have stress-related hypothalamic amenorrhea, it means that there is a hormonal imbalance.
The condition develops when there is an increased secretion of the corticotropin-releasing hormone, and the adrenocorticotropin hormone from the pituitary gland, resulting in the reduction of the GnRH secretion.
Other studies show that there is a link between hypothalamic amenorrhea and the serum growth hormone. Researchers have found that when the serum growth hormone increases especially at nighttime, this can increase your chances of developing hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Other clinical studies indicate that a GnRH-related abnormality can be due to hypoestrogenism, a condition characterized by low levels of estrogen. When a woman is deficient of estrogen, she may experience symptoms such as abnormal or absent periods, hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, depression, and even painful sex.