The American Pregnancy Association (The Association) has said that premature ovarian failure (POF) (also known as primary ovarian insufficiency) is the loss of ovarian function in women under age 40. Mayo Clinic said if ovaries fail, they don't produce normal amounts of estrogen or release eggs regularly.
Mayo Clinic wrote that premature ovarian failure is sometimes called premature menopause, but the two aren’t the same. Women with POF may have irregular or occasional periods for years and may even become pregnant. Women with premature menopause stop having periods and can't become pregnant.
Premature ovarian failure may result from follicle depletion or follicle dysfunction. Follicle depletion is when a woman has no follicles left in her ovaries and no way to produce more.
Mayo Clinic said that follicle depletion causes include chromosomal defects, certain genetic disorders, and toxins like chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments. Other toxins such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, pesticides and viruses may accelerate ovarian failure.
Follicle dysfunction means a woman may have follicles in her ovaries, but they aren’t working properly. Mayo Clinic said this may result from autoimmune disease. The immune system may produce antibodies against the ovarian tissue, harming the egg-containing follicles and damaging the egg. Another reason is actually “unknown factors.”
The Association said other causes identified with POF include hysterectomy with both ovaries removed, thyroid dysfunction, viral infections, inadequate gonadotropin secretion or action, and eating disorders. Merck Manuals added Addison's disease and diabetes.
Mayo Clinic said risk factors that may increase development of POF include age and family history.
The symptoms of premature ovarian failure are similar to those of menopause and typical of estrogen deficiency according to Mayo Clinic.
NIH said the most common symptom of POF is skipping or having irregular periods. Others include hot flashes and night sweats, irritability, poor concentration, decreased sex drive or painful sex, vaginal dryness, and infertility.