Atrophy of the ovary

What does atrophy of the ovary mean?

Atrophy of the ovary is a normal part of the aging process and a non-cancerous change. Atrophy can be seen around the time or after a woman has reached menopause. When examined under the microscope, no developing eggs are seen and there is less stroma compared to the ovary of a reproductive-age woman. As a result, the ovary is smaller and ovulation stops.              

The ovary

The ovaries are part of the female reproductive tract. They are small organs that are attached to the uterus by the fallopian tubes. The outer surface of the ovary is lined by a thin layer of specialized tissue that forms a barrier around the outside of the ovary called the epithelium.

The tissue below the epithelium is called the stroma. Within the stroma are large cells called eggs which contain half of the genetic material necessary to create a new human being. The other half of the genetic material comes from the male sperm cell during fertilization.

Gynecological tract

Eggs are surrounded by specialized stromal cells that support the egg until it is released from the ovary. The egg and stromal cells form small round structures called follicles. These follicles send and receive signals that create the menstrual cycle.

Every month, a small number of follicles begin to mature until one egg (but sometimes more) is released from the ovary. This is called ovulation. The released egg breaks through the epithelium on the surface of the ovary before entering the fallopian tube.

by Emily Goebel MD FRCPC (updated June 24, 2021)
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