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Definition of Amenorrhea

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Amenorrhea: Absence or cessation of menstruation. Amenorrhea is conventionally divided into primary and secondary amenorrhea.

  • Primary amenorrhea -- menstruation never takes place. It fails to occur at puberty.
  • Secondary amenorrhea -- menstruation starts but then stops.

The absence of menstruation during pregnancy is a form of physiologic secondary amenorrhea, physiologic in the sense that it is completely normal and is not caused by anything medically harmful (pathologic). Amenorrhea during lactation is another type of physiologic secondary amenorrhea.

The word "amenorrhea" is compounded from three Greek roots "a-", no + "men", month + "rhoia", flow = no monthly flow. Amenorrhea is less commonly called amenia.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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