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Premature ovarian failure symptoms and treatments

Posted Aug 23 2012 12:00am
Women below the age of 40 who do not have a regular period for three months or longer, are at risk of health conditions that can have broad-reaching implications. Premature ovarian failure can increase the risk for osteoporosis and, in some cases, heart disease.

Catching the condition early can help deter the worst of the side effects so it is important for women with potential premature ovarian failure to determine the cause of their irregular, absent, or unusually light periods. Symptoms can include
  • Hot flashes or vaginal dryness
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss, weakness, fatigue,
  • Unusual craving for salt
  • Darkening of the skin.
  • Loss of hearing
Possible cause for premature ovarian failure can range from family genetics to surgical procedures that were performed on the ovaries or even chemotherapy. The majority of women diagnosed with the disorder have elevated levels of a FSH hormone (follicle stimulating hormone).

High levels of FSH are produced when the body tries to stimulate the ovaries but the ovaries do not respond. This is important because the ovaries sometimes fail not because they are dysfunctional, but because the brain or the body's master gland, the pituitary, has stopped properly regulating ovarian function.

Women with premature ovarian failure are not only infertile, but their mental and physical health is at risk. A variety of treatments are available to women with high FSH and many include the supplementation of various hormones through medications and dehydroepiandrosterone, also known as DHEA , a mild male hormone that is converted to testosterone and estardiol in the body.

Estrogen replacement is one of the main goals of these treatments. In many cases, the ovaries have stopped producing estrogen and this hormone is vital to restoring natural ovulation cycles and ovarian health. Without estrogen, women with premature ovarian failure are at risk of developing bone-thinning diseases like osteoporosis.

Fertility experts say giving women estrogen best mimics the body’s natural cycles, and there many types of estrogen that can be tested for effectiveness based on individual needs. Women who try estradiol estrogen can get it in pill form, in a patch that is worn on the skin, or in a ring that is inserted into the vagina.

Despite the advantages the patch and ring may have, other forms of estrogen replacement are also effective, and women should choose the form that best suits them. Some women do not like wearing the patch or using the ring; others develop skin irritation when they wear the patch. For them, hormones in pill form may be a better choice. Regardless of the form of estrogen they choose, most women must also take some form of progestin (a type of progesterone). With progestins, women also have choices. They come in patch or pill form and there are synthetic and "natural" versions.

By Health News Watch

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