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Premature Ovarian Failure: An Overview

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Updated July 08, 2009

Premature ovarian failure (POF) has been around for a very long time. And for decades, POF has puzzled medical researchers and healthcare providers. The reason why more than a quarter of a million women in the United States become menopausal long before the average age a woman enters menopause (around 51) continues to perplex researchers.

Women with POF stop ovulating regularly, either because the egg-containing follicles become depleted early, or the follicles stop responding normally to changes in hormones during the menstrual cycle.

The good news is that medical researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) are diligently working with the hope of learning more about the causes, symptoms, and patterns of POF. The goal of all of this research is to find safe and effective treatments for premature ovarian failure. Researchers also want to learn more about the factors that play a role in premature ovarian failure, from hormones and genes to the immune system.

5 Things to Know About Premature Ovarian Failure

1. In the United States, more than a quarter of a million women under age 40 have POF.

2. The most common signs and symptoms of premature ovarian failure are:

  • irregular periods or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
  • night sweats, hot flashes
  • vaginal dryness (atrophy)
  • poor concentration
  • decreased sex drive
  • irritability
  • pain during sex
  • infertility

3. Women with premature ovarian failure are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis, Addison's disease, and low thyroid function.

4. The treatments for POF include hormone replacement therapy for relief of symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal atrophy. Sadly, no current treatment has proven safe and effective for premature ovarian failure.

5. The lack of normal ovarian function or improved fertility can cause much anguish for women diagnosed with POF who are trying to conceive. Premature ovarian failure patients have a difficult, if not impossible, time trying to get pregnant. In fact, only 5 to 10% will conceive without treatment.

Source:

NHCID National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Do I Have Premature Ovarian Failure?
Accessed: 12/20/05

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