According to researchers, at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), young women who experience irregular menstrual periods may be at high risk for developing osteoporosis in the future. There has been a way in which they studied nearly 40 women under age 45 with a condition called premature ovarian failure. This occurs when the ovaries stop producing eggs and reproductive hormones before natural menopause takes place. Most women in the study reported a history of amenorrhea.
Amenorrhea occurs when a woman misses her menstrual period for three months or more. When asked, most women did not view a change in their menstrual cycle as an important health concern. Researchers say this may have caused a delay for many women in receiving an accurate diagnosis of POF.
Estrogen and other ovarian hormones help maintain bone density. Women without hormone-producing ovaries, no matter what their age, may develop osteoporosis. According to a former study, nearly 60 percent of about 75 women with POF had osteopenia. Osteopenia is low bone density that precedes osteoporosis. Lawrence Nelson, M.D., from the NICHD, says the high rate of bone loss in these women could be due to the delay in their diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Nelson says, "Because missed periods are common symptoms in young women, it's understandable that more than half of our patients weren't concerned at first. But the delay in evaluating and treating ovarian insufficiency may place young women at increased risk of developing osteoporosis in later years."