Puberty is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood characterized by the attainment of adult height and body composition, accrual of bone strength and the acquisition of secondary sexual characteristics, psychosocial maturation and reproductive capacity. In girls, menarche is a late marker of puberty. Primary amenorrhea is defined as the absence of menarche in ≥15-year-old females with developed secondary sexual characteristics and normal growth or that in ≥13-year-old females without signs of pubertal development. Furthermore, evaluation for primary amenorrhea should be considered in the absence of menarche three years after thelarche (start of breast development) or five years after thelarce, if that occurred before the age of 10 years. A variety of disorders in the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis can lead to primary amenorrhea with delayed, arrested or normal pubertal development. Etiologies can be categorized as hypothalamic or pituitary disorders causing hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, gonadal disorders causing hypergonadotropic hypogonadism, disorders of other endocrine glands, and congenital utero-vaginal anomalies. This article gives a comprehensive review of the etiologies, diagnostics and management of primary amenorrhea from the perspective of pediatric endocrinologists and gynecologists. The goals of treatment vary depending on both the etiology and patient; with timely etiological diagnostics fertility may be attained even in those situations where no curable treatment exists.
Satu Seppä, Tanja Kuiri-Hänninen, Elina Holopainen, and Raimo Voutilainen
Viivi Saari, Elina Holopainen, Outi Mäkitie, and Saila Laakso
To determine the natural course of pubertal development, growth during puberty, and development of POI in females with autoimmune polyendocrinopathy-candidiasis-ectodermal dystrophy (APECED), also called autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type I.
Longitudinal follow-up study.
A national cohort of females with APECED aged ≥12 years were followed during 1965–2018. Attainment of adult height was defined when patients’ height increased less than 1 cm per year. Diagnosis of POI was based on delayed puberty or POI symptoms with amenorrhea, and/or FSH ≥40 IU/L.
Altogether 40 women with APECED were followed up to the average age of 37.3 (range: 14.6–61.9) years; 16 females (40%) were ≥ 40 years. Pubertal development started spontaneously in 34 patients and 29 had spontaneous menarche. POI developed in 28 patients (70%) at the median age of 16.0 years (range: 11.3–36.5), and in 20 of them (71%) before attaining adult height. In 11 cases puberty was induced or completed by hormonal therapy. Patients with POI were significantly shorter at menarche, but adult heights did not differ from non-POI females. Patients with POI had more often primary adrenocortical insufficiency (93% vs 58%, P = 0.017) and ovarian antibodies (81% vs 30%, P=0.003) compared to those with normal ovarian function (n = 12).
POI developed in the majority of patients with APECED, often before or shortly after menarche. Timely commencement of hormonal replacement therapy is important to ensure optimal pubertal development and growth. The possibility of fertility preservation before development of POI in APECED patients should be further studied.