PRIMARY OVARIAN INSUFFICIENCY- PREMATURE OVARIAN FAILURE
Premature ovarian failure (POF), also known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), or primary ovarian insufficiency is the loss of function of the ovaries before age 40. A commonly cited triad for the diagnosis is amenorrhea, hypergonadotropism, and hypoestrogenism. About 5 to 10% of women with primary ovarian insufficiency conceive subsequent to the diagnosis without medical intervention.On average, the ovaries supply a woman with eggs until age 51, the average age of natural menopause.POF is not the same as a natural menopause, in that the dysfunction of the ovaries, loss of eggs, or removal of the ovaries at a young age is not a normal physiological occurrence.
Infertility is the result of this condition, and is the most discussed problem resulting from it, but there are additional health implications of the problem, and studies are ongoing. For example, osteoporosis or decreased bone density affects almost all women with POF due to an insufficiency of estrogen. There is also an increased risk of heart disease, hypothyroidism in the form of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Addison’s disease, and other auto-immune disorders.
Hormonally, POF is defined by abnormally low levels of estrogen and high levels of FSH, which demonstrate that the ovaries are no longer responding to circulating FSH by producing estrogen and developing fertile eggs. The ovaries will likely appear shriveled.
The age of onset can be as early as the teenage years, or can even exist from birth, but varies widely. If a girl never begins menstruation, it is called primary ovarian failure. The age of 40 was chosen as the cut-off point for a diagnosis of POF. This age was chosen somewhat arbitrarily, as all women’s ovaries decline in function over time. However an age needed to be chosen to distinguish usual menopause from the abnormal state of premature menopause. Premature ovarian failure has components to it that distinguish it from normal menopause.
By the age of 40, approximately one percent of women have POF. Women suffering from POF usually experience menopausal symptoms that are more severe than the symptoms found in older menopausal women.
Serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) measurement alone can be used to diagnose the disease. Two FSH measurements with one-month interval have been a common practice. The anterior pituitary secretes FSH and LH at high levels due to the dysfunction of the ovaries and consequent low estrogen levels. Typical FSH in POF patients is over 40 mlU/ml (post-menopausal range).