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Evaluation and management of primary amenorrhea

Corrine K Welt, MD
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Section Editors
William F Crowley, Jr, MD
Mitchell E Geffner, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Martin, MD


Amenorrhea (absence of menses) can be a transient, intermittent, or permanent condition resulting from dysfunction of the hypothalamus, pituitary, ovaries, uterus, or vagina (table 1 and table 2). It is often classified as either primary (absence of menarche by age 15 years) or secondary (absence of menses for more than three months in girls or women who previously had regular menstrual cycles or six months in girls or women who had irregular menses).

The causes and diagnosis of primary amenorrhea, as well as a brief summary of treatment options, are reviewed here. The etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of secondary amenorrhea are discussed separately. (See "Causes of primary amenorrhea" and "Epidemiology and causes of secondary amenorrhea" and "Evaluation and management of secondary amenorrhea".)


Background — Primary amenorrhea is defined as the absence of menses at age 15 years in the presence of normal growth and secondary sexual characteristics. However, at age 13 years, if no menses have occurred and there is a complete absence of secondary sexual characteristics such as breast development, evaluation for primary amenorrhea should also begin. In addition, some girls with secondary sexual characteristics may present before age 15 years with amenorrhea and cyclic pelvic pain. These girls should be evaluated for possible outflow tract obstruction. (See "Causes of primary amenorrhea", section on 'Outflow tract disorders'.)

Primary amenorrhea is usually the result of a genetic or anatomical abnormality. However, all causes of secondary amenorrhea can also present as primary amenorrhea (table 1 and table 2). In a large case series of primary amenorrhea, the most common etiologies were [1]:

Gonadal dysgenesis, including Turner syndrome – 43 percent

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 14, 2016.
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