Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea and its influence on women's health

J Endocrinol Invest. 2014 Nov;37(11):1049-56. doi: 10.1007/s40618-014-0169-3. Epub 2014 Sep 9.


Introduction: Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) is one of the most common causes of secondary amenorrhea. There are three types of FHA: weight loss-related, stress-related, and exercise-related amenorrhea. FHA results from the aberrations in pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion, which in turn causes impairment of the gonadotropins (follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone). The final consequences are complex hormonal changes manifested by profound hypoestrogenism. Additionally, these patients present mild hypercortisolemia, low serum insulin levels, low insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and low total triiodothyronine.

Aim: The aim of this work is to review the available data concerning the effects of FHA on different aspects of women's health.

Results: Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea is related to profound impairment of reproductive functions including anovulation and infertility. Women's health in this disorder is disturbed in several aspects including the skeletal system, cardiovascular system, and mental problems. Patients manifest a decrease in bone mass density, which is related to an increase in fracture risk. Therefore, osteopenia and osteoporosis are the main long-term complications of FHA. Cardiovascular complications include endothelial dysfunction and abnormal changes in the lipid profile. FHA patients present significantly higher depression and anxiety and also sexual problems compared to healthy subjects.

Conclusions: FHA patients should be carefully diagnosed and properly managed to prevent both short- and long-term medical consequences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amenorrhea / blood*
  • Amenorrhea / diagnosis*
  • Amenorrhea / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamic Diseases / blood*
  • Hypothalamic Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Hypothalamic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Osteoporosis / blood
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis / epidemiology
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Women's Health*


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone