Monday, September 9, 2013

Irregular Periods in Young Women can be Cause for Concern

Underlying hormonal issues may be to blame for irregular menstrual cycles

MAYWOOD, Ill. – While irregular periods are common among teenage girls, an underlying hormonal disorder may be to blame if this problem persists.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that is characterized by an excess of androgens or male hormones in the body. The imbalance of hormones interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries, which can prevent ovulation and menstruation.

Menstruation begins on average at age 12, and a normal menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days. Dr. Kavic reports that girls should have a regular menstrual cycle within approximately two years after they get their first period or by age 17 at the latest.

“PCOS can be overlooked because irregular periods are normal in teens,” said Suzanne Kavic, MD, division director, Reproductive Endocrinology, Loyola University Health System (LUHS). “However, if erratic menstrual cycles persist later into the teen years, girls should see a specialist to determine if something else might be causing this issue."

Other symptoms associated with PCOS can include weight gain, hair growth on the body and face, thinning of the hair on the head, acne and infertility. Women with PCOS are at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and endometrial cancer. People with PCOS also tend to become resistant to insulin, which can lead to diabetes.

“Symptoms associated with this syndrome can be concerning to young girls particularly during the teen years, which is already a stressful time,” Dr. Kavic said. “The good news is we can identify PCOS at an early age and begin managing symptoms to alleviate some of the anxiety for these girls."

Treatments for PCOS can include a combination of exercise, diet modifications and medication. Weight loss helps to regulate male hormones and blood sugar levels, which can restore ovulation and menstruation. Birth control pills also may be prescribed to control the menstrual cycle while other hormone therapies can decrease androgen levels and curb symptoms.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.