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Ovarian hypofunction

Definition

Ovarian hypofunction is reduced function of the ovaries (including decreased production of hormones).

Alternative Names

Premature ovarian failure; Ovarian insufficiency

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Ovarian hypofunction may be caused by genetic factors such as chromosome abnormalities, or it may occur with certain autoimmune disorders that disrupt normal ovarian function.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also cause ovarian hypofunction.

Symptoms

Women with ovarian hypofunction may develop symptoms of menopause, which includes:

  • Hot flashes
  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness

Ovarian hypofunction may also make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

Signs and tests

A blood test will be done to check your level of follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH. FSH levels are higher than normal in women with ovarian hypofunction.

Other blood tests may be done to look for autoimmune disorders or thyroid disease.

Women with ovarian hypofunction who want to become pregnant may be particularly concerned about their ability to conceive. Those younger than age 30 may undergo a chromosome analysis to check for problems. Older women approaching menopause do not usually need this test.

Treatment

Estrogen therapy often helps relieve menopausal symptoms and prevents bone loss. However, it will not increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Less than 1 in 10 women with ovarian hypofunction will be able to get pregnant.  The chance of successfully getting pregnant increases to 50% when using a fertilized donor egg (an egg from another woman).

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you are no longer having monthly periods, have symptoms of early menopause, or if you are having difficulty becoming pregnant.

References

Lobo RA. Menopause and care of the mature woman: endocrinology,consequences of estrogen deficiency, effects ofhormone replacement therapy, and treatment regimens. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA,Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia,Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 14.

Bulun SE. The physiology and pathology of the female reproductive axis. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 17.


Review Date: 5/31/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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