Irregular periods a health risk

While the link between irregular periods and heart disease and diabetes is well-established in older women, the findings suggest that doctors might be able to identify this risk much earlier and try to do something about it.

"There may be a misconception in adolescent medicine ...that it 'takes a couple of years after menarche to get the engine running' and hence one might not want to be concerned about irregular adolescent menstrual cycles until much later," said Charles Glueck, one of the study's authors.

"That's clearly wrong," he added, noting that even in young teenagers, very irregular menstrual cycles are not normal and should not be ignored.

Glueck and his colleagues followed 370 girls, starting at age 14, as part of a study. 

Once every year, girls were asked how long it had been since their last menstrual cycle.

Researchers also periodically measured their levels of different sex hormones, glucose and insulin, and blood pressure.

They also collected information on girls' height, weight and waist circumference.

Between age 14 and 19, 269 of the girls reported regular periods at every annual visit.

Another 74 of them had only one report of an irregular period, 19 girls had two reports, and eight said it had been at least 42 days since their last period at three or more visits.

The girls with the most reports of irregular periods were already heavier than others at age 14, and gained more weight and inches on their waist during the study. They also had higher levels of testosterone.

Reports of irregular periods were also linked to higher levels of blood sugar and insulin at age 25.

The findings do not prove that irregular periods cause girls to gain weight or are responsible for the increases in glucose and insulin levels rather, the irregularity could signal another problem.

Irregular periods might be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, which can cause fertility problems, Glueck said. But catching it in adolescence means it can be "very successfully treated."

Does your teen have irregular periods?
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 1388 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 7675 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 1592 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.