Primary ovarian insufficiency is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries do not function normally, resulting in irregular periods and low fertility. It affects women under age 40, beginning as early as the teen years.
Normally, women begin experiencing irregular periods and reduced fertility around age 40, but primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), also called premature ovarian failure, causes a lack of hormone production and egg release at much younger ages.
Could your symptoms be POI?
What Causes POI?
In many cases, doctors are unable to determine the cause of POI; however, the following three factors can raise your risk:
- Toxin exposure: When the body is exposed to toxins, such as chemotherapy or radiation, ovarian function may fail. Cigarette smoke, chemicals and pesticides may do the same.
- Chromosome defect: Certain chromosomal disorders can cause a loss of normal ovarian function, such as Turner syndrome, where a female is born with only one X chromosome.
- Autoimmune disease: An autoimmune response to the body’s own ovarian tissue can cause damage to the eggs.
Primary ovarian insufficiency also has a genetic component. If you have a family history of the condition, you are more likely to develop it, especially if you’ve had surgeries and treatment for other ovarian conditions.
What Are the Symptoms?
POI symptoms resemble menopause symptoms, since both characterize the side effects of an estrogen deficiency. You may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Skipped periods
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Decreased libido
- Inability to concentrate
- Vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse
- Mood changes, irritability
Any of these symptoms are a sign you should see your doctor, but especially if you’ve missed a period for three months in a row.
Since this condition is characterized by a hormone imbalance, women with POI are at risk of many other associated complications as a result. Without the right hormonal balance, you may develop:
The sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner you can start treatment that will help prevent additional health complications, so if you’re noticing any symptoms, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
If you are diagnosed with POI, treatment options are available that may relieve symptoms and promote fertility, but there is no known way to completely restore all lost ovarian function. However, up to 10 percent of women with POI are able to become pregnant on their own, without medical intervention.
For others, the following treatments are recommended:
- Hormone therapy
- Adding calcium and vitamin D supplements to the diet
It’s important to talk to your doctor to form a treatment plan designed personally for you. Make an appointment at Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center today to address your symptoms and find out if primary ovarian insufficiency is the cause.