Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and menstrual dysfunction

Marie L. Griffin, Stephen A. South, Vladimir I. Yankov, Robert A. Booth, Christopher M. Asplin, Johannes D. Veldhuis, William S. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Disordered reproductive function has long been recognized as a prevalent problem among women of reproductive age who suffer from insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Delay in menarchial age is frequently seen if IDDM develops in the peripubertal years and some form of menstrual dysfunction is found in nearly one-third of all women of reproductive age with IDDM. This review summarizes some of the prevailing views regarding the mechanisms through which uncontrolled IDDM is thought to disrupt normal Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal function. Although animal studies have suggested that poorly controlled IDDM may adversely affect the uterovaginal outflow tract and/or ovarian function, no clinical studies have suggested that abnormal uterine or ovarian function underlies the menstrual dysfunction observed in young diabetic women. Similarly, pituitary function as assessed by basal gonadotropins and gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH)-stimulated gonadotropin release appears to be normal in young women with IDDM. Moreover, although there has been some suggestion that pituitary function may decline with increasing duration of diabetes, this issue has not been thoroughly investigated. It appears that the oligo/amenorrhea noted in IDDM is principally hypothalamic in origin and may represent intermittent (and perhaps reversible) failure of the GnRH pulse generator, similar to the situation observed in women who engage in endurance training or who suffer from anorexia nervosa. Although the exact pathophysiological mechanisms that subserve dysfunction of the GnRH neuronal system are not well understood, attention has focused on increased central opioidergic activity, increased central dopaminergic activity, and central glucose deprivation. In this era of emphasis on tight glycaemic control and its impact in preventing diabetes complications, the consequences of IDDM on reproductive potential appear to be important and must be included in future investigative efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-340
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1994


  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Infertility
  • Menstrual dysfunction
  • Reproductive disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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