Oligomenorrhea is a condition in which women have infrequent menstrual periods. It occurs in women of childbearing age. Some variation in menstruation is normal, but a woman who regularly goes more than 35 days without menstruating may be diagnosed with oligomenorrhea. Periods most commonly occur every 21 to 35 days. The diagnosis changes to oligomenorrhea after more than 90 days without a period. Here is what you need to know about this condition.
Oligomenorrhea that occurs in adolescents is often caused by immaturity or lack of synchronization between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls body temperature, cellular metabolism, as well as basic functions as appetite for food, the sleep cycle, and reproduction. The hypothalamus also secretes hormones that regulate the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is then stimulated to produce hormones that affect growth and reproduction. At the beginning and end of a woman's reproductive life, some of these hormone messages may not be synchronized, resulting in irregularities of a period.
In athletes, models, actresses, dancers, and women with anorexia nervosa, oligomenorrhea occurs because body fat drops too low compared to weight. Emotional stress related to performance anxiety may also be a factor in oligomenorrhea in these women.
What are the Symptoms of Oligomenorrhea?
Going more than 35 days without having a period and without being on birth control pills is the primary symptom of Oligomenorrhea. There can be sudden changes in the menstrual cycle in Oligomenorrhea. There are some women who may skip a period and experience a heavier period with more pain the next time. There is no need to worry as this is somewhat normal and is not necessarily an indication of miscarriage. Other symptoms of Oligomenorrhea are pain, discomfort, heavy menstrual bleeding, infertility and a feeling of heaviness in between menstrual cycles.
How is oligomenorrhea diagnosed?
Oligomenorrhea is most commonly diagnosed after a review of your menstrual history. Physical exams, blood tests, and ultrasound imaging may be necessary as well. For the most part, a missed menstrual cycle or light flow doesn’t seem like a problem, but it can sometimes indicate the presence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The exact cause of PCOS in unknown, but a combination of factors may include insulin resistance, elevated levels of certain hormones, and irregular menstrual cycles.
How is Oligomenorrhea Treated?
Oligomenorrhea is not a serious condition on its own. Treatment of Oligomenorrhea consists of balancing the hormone levels in a woman's body by prescribing medication. After the hormone levels have balanced out, the menstrual cycle returns to normal in a couple of months. Birth control pills, which contain synthetic hormones, can also be prescribed for treating Oligomenorrhea. If the cause of oligomenorrhea is obesity or being underweight, then correcting these problems will eventually resolve Oligomenorrhea. Rarely some other treatment or surgery is needed to cure oligomenorrhea if the cause is malfunctioning of some gland which is throwing off the balance of hormones in the patient's body.
Oligomenorrhea is preventable only in women whose low body fat to weight ratio is keeping them from maintaining a regular menstrual cycle. Adequate nutrition and less vigorous training schedules for female athletes will normally prevent oligomenorrhea. When oligomenorrhea is caused by hormonal factors, however, it is not preventable, but is usually treatable and not so serious.