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Chapter: Medical Physiology: Female Physiology Before Pregnancy and Female Hormones

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Abnormalities of Secretion by the Ovaries

Hypogonadism. Less than normal secretion by the ovariescan result from poorly formed ovaries, lack of ovaries, or genetically abnormal ovaries that secrete the wrong hormones because of missing enzymes in the secretory cells.

Abnormalities of Secretion by the Ovaries

Hypogonadism. Less than normal secretion by the ovariescan result from poorly formed ovaries, lack of ovaries, or genetically abnormal ovaries that secrete the wrong hormones because of missing enzymes in the secretory cells. When ovaries are absent from birth or when they become nonfunctional before puberty, femaleeunuchism occurs. In this condition, the usual secondarysexual characteristics do not appear, and the sexual organs remain infantile. Especially characteristic of this condition is prolonged growth of the long bones because the epiphyses do not unite with the shafts as early as they do in a normal woman. Consequently, the female eunuch is essentially as tall as or perhaps even slightly taller than her male counterpart of similar genetic background.

When the ovaries of a fully developed woman are removed, the sexual organs regress to some extent so that the uterus becomes almost infantile in size, the vagina becomes smaller, and the vaginal epithelium becomes thin and easily damaged. The breasts atrophy and become pendulous, and the pubic hair becomes thinner. The same changes occur in women after menopause.

Irregularity  of      Menses,      and   Amenorrhea Caused      by Hypogonadism. As pointed out in the preceding dis-cussion of menopause, the quantity of estrogens pro-duced by the ovaries must rise above a critical value in order to cause rhythmical sexual cycles. Consequently, in hypogonadism or when the gonads are secreting small quantities of estrogens as a result of other factors, such as hypothyroidism, the ovarian cycle often does not occur normally. Instead, several months may elapse between menstrual periods, or menstruation may cease altogether (amenorrhea). Prolonged ovarian cycles are frequently associated with failure of ovulation, presum-ably because of insufficient secretion of LH at the time of the preovulatory surge of LH, which is necessary for ovulation.

Hypersecretion by the Ovaries. Extreme hypersecretion ofovarian hormones by the ovaries is a rare clinical entity, because excessive secretion of estrogens automatically decreases the production of gonadotropins by the pituitary, and this limits the production of ovarian hormones. Consequently, hypersecretion of feminizing hormones is usually recognized clinically only when a feminizing tumor develops.

A rare granulosa cell tumor can develop in an ovary, occurring more often after menopause than before. These tumors secrete large quantities of estrogens, which exert the usual estrogenic effects, including hypertrophy of the uterine endometrium and irregular bleeding from this endometrium. In fact, bleeding is often the first and only indication that such a tumor exists.


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