We all know that lurking somewhere in the inevitable future for a woman is Menopause. This final farewell to your reproductive years happens in the 50s. But what if you experience menopausal symptoms in your 40s? 0r 30s? Or even in your teens?
Premature ovarian insufficiency, often shortened to POI, is a fertility-related disorder. It occurs when the ovaries stop functioning before age 40. POI Effects around 2 percent of women and is often confused with premature menopause. But these conditions are not the same.
We spoke to doctors at Hera to bring you all the information about POI and its symptoms.
Premature ovarian insufficiency is also known as primary ovarian failure. It is a condition where a woman’s ovaries stop functioning before the age of 40 years.The ovaries are female reproductive organs in the lower part of a woman’s abdomen. Each woman has two ovaries and they have two functions in the body. About once a month, the ovaries release an egg (oocyte) for fertilization.
The ovaries also make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These are hormones for the sexual and reproductive development in women. Sometimes the ovaries have lesser eggs or lower hormone levels in young women. This leads to premature ovarian insufficiency symptoms or primary ovarian failure.
Scientific Definition: POI is defined as cessation of menstrual periods, increased levels of FSH and diminished levels of estrogens before the age of 40..- HERA
One of the first indicators of POI for young women is irregular periods or missing periods. Other premature ovarian insufficiency symptoms include
Hera Protip: If you have missed or irregular periods for over three months it is advisable to see a doctor. Medical experts can conducts tests to determine the cause, rule out pregnancy, early menopause or any other disorder..- HERA
Premature ovarian insufficiency is sometimes confused with premature menopause because of similar symptoms. But both conditions are different. Women diagnosed with early menopause stop having their period before the age of 40. They are thus are unable to become pregnant.
But women with premature ovarian insufficiency retain intermittent ovarian function. This causes them to have irregular periods for extensive periods, but it also means they can get pregnant.
In almost 90 percent of women, the cause of Premature ovarian insufficiency remains unknown. But a few identified causes are as below.
Various studies state that about one-fifth of women with POI have autoimmune diseases. Here, the immune system attacks the ovarian tissue and harming the eggs. The two autoimmune diseases most associated with POI are –
Thyroid which is an inflammation of the thyroid gland.
Addison’s disease which affects the adrenal glands.
Sometimes genetic changes put women at a higher risk for primary ovarian failure.
Turner’s syndrome where a woman has only one normal X chromosome and an altered second X chromosome.
Fragile X syndrome in which the X chromosomes are fragile and break.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can damage the genetic material in cells.
Lifestyle and Environmental Toxins
Toxins such as cigarette, chemicals, pesticides, and even viruses might affect fertility. They cause depletion in the eggs reserved in the ovaries.
Women with close female relatives who have been diagnosed with POI are more likely to have Premature Ovarian Insufficiency.
ProHera Tip: If you have a close female relative who has experienced menopausal symptoms at a young age or has POI, get yourself evaluated by a doctor to determine if you’re at also at risk..- HERA
POI causes you to have lower levels of ovarian hormones, particularly Estrogen in your body. It puts you at a greater risk for other health conditions. Estrogen is vital for cognitive health, bone health and the function of the cardiovascular system in the body. Depleted levels of Estrogen can cause the below –
Infertility: This is one of the most devastating aspects of a POI diagnosis. Between 5% and 10% of women with or primary ovarian failure get pregnant with no fertility treatment. However, pregnancy often takes time and can occur many years after the initial diagnosis.
Heart Disease: Lower levels of estrogen can affect the muscles lining the arteries. It can increase the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, thus risking your heart health.
Osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures: Estrogen keeps the bones strong. Without enough estrogen, women with primary ovarian failure can develop osteoporosis. They are also at an increased risk for fractures due to weak bones.
Dementia, Depression and Parkinson’s: The depleted level of estrogen puts women at risk for dementia, depression and Parkinson’s.
Anxiety and depression: POI is also known to cause anxiety or lead to depression in many women. This is due to the hormonal changes as well as the diagnosis of infertility which can devastate women who want to start a family. Additionally, there is very little understanding of primary ovarian failure amongst people. This can trigger feelings of isolation.
Dry eye syndrome: Some women with POI suffer from dry eye syndrome, which may lead to blurred vision. If not treated, these conditions can cause permanent eye damage.
There is no proven treatment for POI that can help to restore normal function to a woman’s ovaries. But premature ovarian insufficiency symptoms can be treated to lower the health risks for women.
Premature Ovarian Insufficiency affects different aspects of a woman’s life. From her sexual health, physical health and her mental health, there are profound effects of the disease on her life. Its hidden complications need ample attention and treatment from a medical expert.