Because POI results in lower levels of certain hormones, women with POI are at greater risk for a number of health conditions, including:
- Osteoporosis. The hormone estrogen helps keep bones strong. Without enough estrogen, women with POI often develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes weak, brittle bones that are more likely to break and fracture.1
- Low thyroid function. This problem also is called hypothyroidism (pronounced hahy-puh-THAHY-roi-diz-uhm). The thyroid is a gland that makes hormones that control your body’s metabolism and energy level. Low levels of the hormones made by the thyroid can affect your metabolism and can cause very low energy and mental sluggishness. Cold feet and constipation are also features of low thyroid function. Some women with POI also have low thyroid function.2
- Anxiety and depression. Hormonal changes caused by POI can contribute to anxiety or lead to depression.3 Women diagnosed with POI can be shy, anxious in social settings, and may have low self-esteem more often than women without POI.2 It is possible that depression may contribute to POI.3
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease. Lower levels of estrogen, as seen in POI, can affect the muscles lining the arteries and can increase the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. Both factors increase the risk of atherosclerosis (pronounced ath-uh-roh-skluh-ROH-sis)—or hardening of the arteries—which can slow or block the flow of blood to the heart. Women with POI have higher rates of illness and death from heart disease than do women without POI.1,4,5
- Dry eye syndrome and ocular (eye) surface disease. Some women with POI have one of these conditions, which cause discomfort and may lead to blurred vision.2 If not treated, these conditions can cause permanent eye damage.
Addison’s disease is also associated with POI. Addison’s disease is a life-threatening condition that affects the adrenal glands, which produce hormones that help the body respond to physical stress, such as illness and injury. These hormones also affect ovary function.6 A small percentage of women with POI have Addison's disease.7
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2009). Premature ovarian failure. ACOG medical student teaching module [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Adolescent-Health-Care/Primary-Ovarian-Insufficiency-in-Adolescents-and-Young-Women
- Nelson, L. M. (2009). Primary ovarian insufficiency. New England Journal of Medicine, 360, 606–614.
- Schmidt, P. J., Luff, J. A., Haq, N. A., Vanderhoof, V. H., Koziol, D. E., Calis, K. A., et al. (2011). Depression in women with spontaneous 46, XX primary ovarian insufficiency. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96, E278–E287.
- De Vos, M., Devroey, P., & Fauser, B. C. (2010). Primary ovarian insufficiency. Lancet, 376, 911–921.
- Kodaman, P. H. (2010). Early menopause: Primary ovarian insufficiency and surgical menopause. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 28, 360–369.
- National Center for Biotechnical Information, PubMed Health. (2009). Addison’s disease.
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2007). Premature ovarian failure. Retrieved January 4, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/poi