Most Common Menstrual Cycle Disorders: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

The menstrual period is part of your monthly menstrual cycle, which cycles on an average of every 28 days for most women. Menstrual cycles vary in their patterns depending on each individual woman, and sometimes they can extend beyond the minor disruptions that may naturally occur. These are known as menstrual disorders, and are indicative of disruptive physical and/or emotional symptoms that happen before and during menstruation. These are a few of the most common menstrual cycle disorders that typically affect women.

1. Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (AUB)

Abnormal uterine bleeding is a condition that includes irregular bleeding from the uterus. This would be bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual or does not occur regularly.

AUB can have many different causes. Women who have the condition often have experienced changes in hormone levels. It can also be caused by growths inside the uterus or issues with blood clotting.


Symptoms for AUB are typically irregular menstrual cycle patterns. This can include women whose period cycle surpasses the normal average length for the adult menstrual cycle, which is 21 to 35 days long. Women whose periods also last longer than the typical period length (if her period is longer than 7 days) may also have AUB. AUB is also known to be characterized by heavier than normal menstrual bleeding, which includes passing blood clots and soaking through pads or tampons quickly.


When seeking your doctor’s advice, your doctor will typically try to find the cause of the abnormal bleeding to make sure that it’s not vaginal bleeding, stemming from your menstrual cycle. To diagnose this, your doctor will ask about the duration, length, and heaviness of the bleeding and may also conduct a pelvic exam, urine test, blood test and ultrasound to check for other possible causes.


Abnormal uterine bleeding can be treated. For severe bleeding, treatment will usually be administered through a short course of high-dose estrogen therapy to mitigate the bleeding. Your doctor may also suggest hormone therapy, such as prescribing birth control pills or an IUD to help regulate your menstrual cycle. In severe cases, a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation can obliterate abnormal uterine bleeding, but will prevent future childbearing.

2. Dysmenorrhea

If you experience severely painful periods, you may have a condition called dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea is referred to as either primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is painful cramping caused by the menstrual cycle. Secondary dysmenorrhea is menstrual related but is often a result of another medical condition, usually endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Dysmenorrhea can be caused by excessive levels of prostaglandins or an underlying uterine condition.


Signs of dysmenorrhea include pain in the lower abdomen, hips, lower back or thighs during menstruation. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lightheadedness and achiness can also occur as symptoms. The pain usually begins before or during the menstrual period takes place and subsides about two to three days afterwards. Blood clots and tissue from the uterine lining may be shed and could cause severe pain. Pain as a result of the condition is often characterized as being spasmodic or congestive.


In order to diagnose your condition, a doctor may run additional tests to check for any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your painful periods. You will be given a pelvic examination, and possibly a blood and urine test, and even an ultrasound in some cases.


Primary dysmenorrhea can be treated by medication like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to mitigate the severity of the pain. Doctors may also suggest hormone medications such as oral contraceptives to lessen the severity of symptoms.

Implantable contraception is also an option, as they can release low levels of progesterone, which has been found to help in decreasing menstrual pain. Treatment for secondary dysmenorrhea will likely depend on the treatment for the condition causing the period pain

3. Amenorrhea

Unlike heavy menstrual bleeding, women who experience the condition called amenorrhea often exhibit an absence of menstruation. Amenorrhea is perfectly normal before the onset of puberty, after menopause, and during pregnancy, but women who fail to get their monthly period otherwise should talk to a healthcare professional about their condition.

There are two kinds of amenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea happens if menstruation has not occurred by the age of 16, and secondary amenorrhea is diagnosed if your regular periods suddenly stop for three months or longer.


Symptoms of amenorrhea primarily consist of the absence of menstrual periods. You might exhibit other signs or symptoms as well, such as milky nipple discharge, hair loss, headaches, vision changes, excessive facial hair, pelvic pain, and acne.


To diagnose your condition, your doctor might perform a pelvic exam to check for any problems with your reproductive organs. Your doctor might also examine your breasts and genitals to see if you’re experiencing any normal changes.

Sometimes, amenorrhea is the result of hormone problems. In this case, your doctor might conduct further testing to find an underlying cause. Lab tests, hormone tests, and imaging tests can all be used to determine how to treat the condition.


Treatment for amenorrhea depends on whether there is an underlying cause for the condition. Sometimes, contraceptive pills and hormone therapies can help induce the start of your menstrual cycle.

Other kinds of amenorrhea can be treated with medication or even surgery. You might also need to make some lifestyle changes, as exercise and diet can have an effect on your menstrual cycle. Stress and conflict can be particularly damaging to your menstrual pattern, and trying to mediate the areas of stress in your life may help result in a more regular cycle.

4. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

By far the most common syndrome associated with the menstrual cycle, PMS, typically occurs alongside a wide set of physical and psychological symptoms and signs during the time of your menstrual cycle. Some women experience symptoms so severe that it disrupts their normal lifestyles, and there are many side effects of PMS. PMS is caused by the rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone in the body, influencing brain chemicals such as serotonin.


Some of the physical symptoms of PMS include cramping, bloating, swollen breasts, fatigue, constipation, headaches, and tenderness. PMS can also manifest emotionally as well, resulting in anger, anxiety, mood swings, depression, crying, and the inability to concentrate.


PMS is a commonly occurring condition that affects many women who experience their menstrual cycle. Those with PMS will typically experience side effects that disrupt their daily routines, making it difficult to maintain their lifestyles.


Treatment for PMS typically depends on the severity of the condition and the types of symptoms present. Women who experience the more physical symptoms will often benefit from taking anti-inflammatory medication to mitigate these side effects.

Hormonal contraceptives are also prescribed to stop ovulation, and effectively relieve many of the symptoms you experience with your period. Women who become depressed as a result of PMS may also take antidepressants to reduce these mood changes. Making changes to your diet and exercise routine can also have an impact on PMS and reduce some of the symptoms as well.

5. Menorrhagia

Menorrhagia is characterized by heavy bleeding during the menstrual period. If you feel as though you are bleeding more heavily during your period than normal, you may be experiencing this condition.


An indication that you have this menstrual condition is excessive bleeding and heavy periods that last longer than normal. Heavy periods that regularly last more than 10 days are a common sign of menorrhagia.

Periods that soak through pads and tampons quickly and frequently are also an indicator. Blood clot formation during heavy bleeding is fairly common, and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of menorrhagia, you should consult with your healthcare professional.


Your doctor will likely ask you a number of questions about the nature of your period and menstrual cycle in order to understand your medical and menstrual histories. Doctors will likely perform a physical exam, and may order any blood tests, pap tests, biopsies, or ultrasound scans which may be required.


Treatment for this condition is based on a number of factors that range from the severity of your symptoms to your medical history. A lot of the time, drug therapies are used to help reduce symptoms.

Iron supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, tranexamic acid, oral contraceptives, oral progesterone, and the hormonal IUD are all common treatments that can decrease heavy menstrual bleeding and provide relief.

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