Endocrine disorders and female reproduction


Overview

The endocrine system is responsible for a number of disorders affecting the female reproduction system. 

Causes

Some conditions affecting female reproduction are caused by endocrine disorders. For example, many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, in which the body cannot use insulin efficiently. This leads to high circulating blood levels of insulin, called hyperinsulinemia. It is believed that hyperinsulinemia is related to increased androgen levels, as well as obesity and type 2 diabetes. In turn, obesity can increase insulin levels, which results in exacerbation of PCOS. There are several other causes that can manipulate the endocrine system in a way to create problems with female reproduction including:

  • Obesity
  • Thyroid disorders (resulting from missing glands, cancer, genetic disorders)
  • Adrenal hyperplasia (endocrine disorders genetic in origin affecting female reproduction)
  • Tumors in the pituitary gland

In many cases, endocrine disorders affecting female reproduction occur because of a genetic predisposition or malformation in genetic material during development.

Symptoms

Women can experience a wide range of symptoms as a result of endocrine disorders. The symptoms of endocrine disorders that affect female reproduction may include:

  • Growth delay
  • Short statue
  • Delayed sexual development
  • Early onset of menopause
  • Excessive hairiness
  • Missed or irregular periods
  • Infertility

Types

These endocrine system disorders include:

Amenorrhea

A menstrual condition characterized by absent menstrual periods for more than three monthly menstrual cycles. Amenorrhea may be classified as primary or secondary.

  • Primary Amenorrhea — Occurs when a female has not yet started her monthly periods but has experienced other normal changes through puberty and is over the age of 15. This female reproduction condition is typically lifelong. Being born with poorly formed female reproduction organs (genital or pelvic) can lead to primary amenorrhea.
  • Secondary amenorrhea — Occurs when a woman experiencing normal menstrual cycles stops menstruating for a period of six months or more. This also includes abnormal or irregular periods in menstruation. Common causes of secondary amenorrhea include obesity, excessive exercise, body fat percentages under 15 to 17 percent and sudden weight loss. Other causes can stem from female reproduction organ disorders and endocrine disorders such as an under or overactive thyroid gland.

Polycystosis

Also called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition is one of the most common female reproduction and endocrine disorders affecting women of reproductive age. It is a leading cause of female infertility and occurs due to an imbalance in the female sex hormones. As a result, women experience female reproduction and fertility issues, changes in menstrual cycle, skin changes, ovarian cysts and other symptoms related to the female reproduction system.

Hirsuitism

This condition is defined by excessive hairiness in children and women in areas where terminal hair does not normally grow. This is often caused by disorders of the endocrine system (pituitary or adrenal gland disorders.)

Turner syndrome

Turner syndrome is a genetic endocrine disorder occurring in approximately one of every 2,500 females. This endocrine disorder affects young girls in a number of ways, including the female reproduction system. Turner syndrome stunts normal body growth and inhibits normal changes that typically result during puberty as a child enters adulthood. Other health problems may also be present involving the heart or renal system (i.e., kidneys), though these issues and the severity of each will vary among individual women. Many of the health problems affecting girls with Turner syndrome can be managed or corrected with appropriate medical treatment. 

Premature ovarian failure

Premature ovarian failure is also known as ovarian hypofunction. It relates to the reduced function of the ovaries including decreased production of hormones in the female reproduction system. Ovarian hypofunction can be caused by genetic endocrine disorders and factors such as chromosome abnormalities, or it may occur with certain autoimmune disorders that disrupt normal ovarian function. Additionally, women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer treatment may experience premature ovarian failure.