What is Premature Ovarian Failure?
- Published on August 14, 2022
Premature ovarian failure is a condition wherein a woman’s ovaries stop functioning normally. This condition is also referred to as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) and generally manifests in women younger than 40 years of age.
Usually, menopause for a woman starts around the age of 50 years. However, in premature ovarian failure, before 40 years of age, your ovaries either completely stop producing eggs and releasing them or produce eggs and release them very infrequently and irregularly.
With premature ovarian failure, your estrogen levels drop drastically as your ovaries stop producing and secreting the estrogen hormone. The estimated percentage of this condition in women is 1 percent.
Symptoms of premature ovarian failure
Premature ovarian failure symptoms can appear in the form of the following signs:
- Hot flashes
- Excessive sweating during the night
- Dryness in the vagina
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
- Irregular menses
- Irritation and mood swings
- Trouble concentrating
- Pain while having sex
- Reduced sex drive
Causes of premature ovarian failure
There are many reasons for premature ovarian failure, which can cause you to suffer from POI.
So, let’s delve further into premature ovarian failure causes:
- Problems associated with follicles
Problems with follicles can cause you to have premature ovarian failure. Your ovaries contain little sacs called follicles, wherein your eggs develop and mature.
One kind of follicular issue arises when your supply of active follicles depletes quicker than usual. On the other hand, another kind of follicle problem is the dysfunctioning of the follicles, i.e., follicles not functioning adequately.
- Genetic disorders
Genetic disorders such as Turner Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, etc., can lead to premature ovarian failure.
Turner Syndrome is a disorder with anomalies in either one of the two X chromosomes. Fragile X syndrome is a disorder in which your X chromosomes are brittle and might break.
- Cancer therapies
Cancer therapies like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, etc., can harm the genetic material present in your cells and cause premature ovarian failure.
- Infections and smoking
Research reveals that viral infections, malaria, and tuberculosis, can lead to premature ovarian failure. Another study reports that smoking cigarettes and inhaling chemicals and pesticides can also cause this condition.
- Autoimmune diseases
In such diseases, the immune system attacks your ovarian tissue by creating antibodies against it, destroying the egg-containing follicles and harming the eggs, causing premature ovarian failure.
Complications with premature ovarian failure
Premature ovarian failure can lead to several complications. It can make it difficult for you to become pregnant or conceive.
Besides infertility as a complication, low estrogen levels can lead to hormonal changes. This can result in dry eyes, anxiety, and depression.
As a result of complications, you might become susceptible to developing osteoporosis. Specifically, with depleting estrogen levels due to premature ovarian failure, your bones can become weak and breakable.
Moreover, premature ovarian failure can elevate your risk of developing cardiac diseases by increasing the accumulation of cholesterol in your arteries. It can also decrease your thyroid function to an abnormal and dangerous level. This can affect your metabolism adversely and cause you to feel lethargic and sluggish.
These complications can reduce your life expectancy with premature ovarian failure by up to 2 years. To ensure that you don’t suffer from complications associated with this condition, it is recommended to consult a doctor.
Consultation with a doctor involves answering questions about your medical history. It also includes undergoing a physical exam and blood tests to check for health disorders, hormone levels, and chromosome anomalies.
Besides this, you might have to undergo a 3D ultrasound to examine the condition of your ovaries. Additionally, you need to get an MRI scan or a hysteroscopy to confirm the result of the ultrasound.
Once your diagnosis turns out to be positive, your doctor will discuss treatment plans with you. Premature ovarian failure treatment helps manage and treat the causal factors and involves the following methods:
- Estrogen therapy: This helps increase your estrogen levels. It also prevents and safeguard you from osteoporosis, anxiety, and hot flashes. It can be administered as a gel or orally through pills.
- Immunomodulation therapy: A study revealed that this therapy is quite effective in treating premature ovarian failure. It involves administering high doses of corticosteroids and glucocorticoids to induce ovulation.
- Regular exercise and balanced diet: Exercising daily and eating a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet decreases your risk of cardiac diseases and aids in alleviating some symptoms of the condition.
- Supplements: Research reveals that taking melatonin supplements helps increase your thyroid function and fertility. In addition, taking vitamin D and C supplements shields you from osteoporosis.
- In vitro fertilisation (IVF): If you cannot become pregnant with premature ovarian failure even after the above methods, IVF can still help you conceive. It involves retrieving eggs from ovaries and fertilising them in a lab with sperm.
Risk factors of premature ovarian failure
Several factors can increase your risk or predispose you to develop premature ovarian failure:
- A family history of having premature ovarian failure
- Being 30-40 years of age
- Having had ovarian surgery
- Suffering from an autoimmune disease
- Having had radiation therapy or chemotherapy
Premature ovarian failure involves the dysfunctioning of ovaries – they stop producing and releasing eggs frequently. You can experience hot flashes, sweating at night, irregular menses, and many other symptoms. This can be due to low estrogen levels, autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders, etc.
It’s a health condition that can make you feel drained out sometimes. In this scenario, it is necessary to reach out to a doctor to find relief from premature ovarian failure symptoms and complications.
To find the appropriate treatment for the symptoms and complications associated with premature ovarian failure, visit a nearby Birla Fertility and IVF centre or book an appointment with Dr. Swati Mishra.
What causes early ovarian failure?
Ans. There are numerous causal factors for early ovarian failure. It can happen due to low estrogen levels, exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides, and cigarette smoking. It can also occur due to genetic disorders like Turner Syndrome, autoimmune diseases, viral infections and tuberculosis.
Can a woman with premature ovarian failure get pregnant?
Ans. Premature ovarian failure can certainly make pregnancy difficult. Nevertheless, you can still get pregnant. However, this can only happen when you undergo the appropriate treatment depending on your causal factor.
Effective treatment for becoming pregnant can include estrogen therapy to boost your estrogen levels, immunomodulation therapy, melatonin, vitamin C and D supplements to improve your fertility.
Does premature ovarian failure cause weight gain?
Ans. Yes, as a complication of premature ovarian failure, you can have decreased thyroid function. This can cause hypothyroidism, i.e., a condition wherein the thyroid hormone is not produced to a sufficient level. This can disrupt your metabolism adversely and cause you to gain weight and feel lethargic and mentally sluggish.
Is ovarian failure reversible?
Ans. Ovarian failure is not fully reversible. However, treatment can help you manage premature ovarian failure. It can also aid you in becoming pregnant, restore some ovarian functions, and keep away fatal complications.
Dr Swati Mishra
Dr Swati Mishra is an internationally trained obstetrician-gynecologist and reproductive medicine specialist. She has trained and worked at some of the most reputed medical institutions in India and abroad. She has worked as a visiting consultant at multiple reputed reproductive medicine centers across Kolkata and as a chief consultant in ARC Fertility Center, Kolkata. Her unique skills and diverse work experience in India and the USA have made her a respected name in the ﬁeld of IVF. She is also a trained specialist in all types of laparoscopic, hysteroscopic and operative procedures related to fertility treatment
Over 18 years of experience
Kolkata, West Bengal
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