Amenorrhoea is common in women with non-alcoholic chronic liver disease, but little is known about its causes or consequences. We investigated 12 young women with non-alcoholic chronic liver disease and amenorrhoea and compared them with 11 healthy age matched controls studied in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. None of the patients had raised serum concentrations of follicle stimulating hormone suggesting primary gonadal failure, but the variance in serum concentrations of testosterone, oestradiol, prolactin, and luteinising hormone were significantly greater in chronic liver disease patients than control subjects (p less than 0.01). Seven of the 12 chronic liver disease patients had low serum luteinising hormone concentrations, and compared with controls these patients also had significantly reduced median values of oestradiol (64 pmol/l), testosterone (1.1 nmol/l), and follicle stimulating hormone, and were significantly underweight as assessed by skinfold thickness measurements (all comparisons p less than 0.025). In the group with chronic liver disease skinfold thickness was significantly correlated with serum luteinising hormone (p less than 0.02). The five patients with normal serum luteinising hormone had higher median values of both oestradiol (237 pmol/l) and testosterone (3.0 nmol/l) than the control subjects (oestradiol: 113 pmol/l, testosterone: 1.9 nmol/l) but were not more obese or hirsute. Amenorrhoea was unrelated to the duration or severity of liver disease. The metacarpal cortical bone area (an index of bone density) was inversely related to the duration of amenorrhoea (p less than 0.02). We conclude that amenorrhoea in women with non-alcoholic chronic liver disease arises from hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction and can occur at any stage. The hormonal findings in amenorrhoeic chronic live disease patients are not uniform. In some, hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism is related to undernutrition whereas others have normal to high values of luteinising hormone and sex steroids. Prolonged oestrogen deficiency can be a risk factor for osteoporosis in women with chronic liver disease.
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