Primary ovarian failure, also known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), is a condition characterised by a loss of function of the ovaries before the age of 40. The cause is currently unknown. Patients with primary ovarian failure produce considerably less estrogen and fewer eggs - leading to osteoporosis and infertility.
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Symptoms of primary ovarian failure depend on the age of the patient and the severity which the patient finds themselves. Notwithstanding this, there are numerous hallmark symptoms that have come to typify primary ovarian failure such as:
Many of these symptoms resemble menopause, but there are differences between primary ovarian failure and premature menopause. This is because patients with primary ovarian failure may still become pregnant whereas this ability completely stops with menopause. Nonetheless, symptoms are remarkably similar. Infertility is considerably more difficult to treat than any other symptom.
The cause of primary ovarian failure is currently unknown. However, researchers have found various factors which appear to contribute to the likelihood that a patient will develop the condition. These indirect causative factors include, but are not limited to:
Genetic factors appear to play an important role, with chromosomal defects being linked to this condition. Patients who smoke are more likely to suffer the condition, as too are those patients who have been exposed to dangerous levels of certain toxins or radiation. Research also suggests that primary ovarian failure may be caused by an autoimmune effect - in the sense that the body attacks the ovaries as they are framed by the body as foreign entities.
Primary ovarian failure is diagnosed through multiple means, many of which can be found listed and described below. These diagnostic options include, but are not limited, to:
Patients presenting to the doctor may not have any noticeable pattern of symptoms. A clinical examination is first performed, particularly involving the pelvic area. Questions will be asked about symptoms, and any potential exposure to damaging radiation or chemotherapy (which itself destroys eggs). Various tests - such as a pregnancy test, prolactin test, FSH test and estradiol test - inform the physician as to the hormonal status of the patient in question. This helps lead to the diagnosis of primary ovarian failure.
Patients with primary ovarian syndrome should contact their doctor, as effective treatment and management options are available. Treatment options for primary ovarian failure include, but are not limited to:
Symptoms such as osteoporosis and night sweats worsen with time, meaning early treatment is essential. These symptoms emerge from estrogen deficiency in these patients, meaning estrogen replacement therapy is essential. Supplementing this hormonal treatment are vitamin D and vitamin C - which help to enhance bone resorption and growth. Counseling may also be required, particularly when the patient comes to terms with the effects of infertility, as this symptom is not treatable as of yet.
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