Menorrhagia is a menstrual condition that affects many women, and is characterized by the heavy or prolonged flow of menstrual periods. Menorrhagia can be severe, in some cases, and interfere with women’s normal daily activities, sleep disturbance, and health problems that result from the loss of blood.
What is Menorrhagia?
Menorrhagia is a medical condition that describes menstrual periods with abnormally heavy flows or prolonged bleeding beyond the average seven days. Many women deal with heavy menstrual bleeding, but women with menorrhagia may experience severe blood loss as a result.
What are the symptoms?
Heavy, prolonged bleeding during the menstrual cycle is the primary symptom of menorrhagia, although it does not necessarily mean it is severe enough to be considered menorrhagia. Menstrual flows heavy enough to soak through pads and tampons every hour or for several consecutive hours are considered to be severe bleeding.
Having to consistently change sanitary pads or tampons to control the flow and having to wake up in the middle of the night to change is also a likely sign of the condition. Bleeding that persists for longer than a week and is characterized by heavy, persisting blood clots is usually an indication of menorrhagia.
Other symptoms may be present as well, as a result of heavy bleeding. Especially severe menstrual bleeding can result in fatigue, shortness of breath, and even cause conditions such as anemia due to the extreme loss of blood.
What causes menorrhagia?
Menorrhagia is thought to be caused by a variety of different things. For instance, there may be an underlying condition, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and endometrial hyperplasia, which can cause persistently heavy period flows and symptoms of menorrhagia. Adenomyosis, for instance, causes the glands of uterine lining to become embedded in the walls of the uterus, which can lead to heavier menstrual flows.
Other common causes include hormone imbalance. During menstruation, the balance of estrogen and progesterone work together to regulate the shedding of the uterine lining. Hormonal imbalances during this time can cause an excess amount of shedding that leads to heavy menstrual bleeding.
Dysfunctional ovaries are also another common cause. If your ovaries are not working effectively to release the egg during a menstrual cycle, the body won’t produce progesterone like it normally does. This can result in a hormonal imbalance as well.
Fibroids are also another cause of menorrhagia. They are noncancerous tumors found on the uterus, and they typically occur during childbearing years. These fibroids can cause heavier and prolonged menstrual bleeding. Other medical conditions can cause heavy menstrual bleeding as well, such as liver, kidney, and thyroid diseases, which can prevent normal blood clotting and lead to menorrhagia in women.
How is it treated?
Since menorrhagia could be caused by underlying conditions, it is important to seek medical advice on how to advance, as treatment methods may depend on the actual cause of the bleeding. Your doctor will likely conduct a physical exam and may even recommend more tests to determine what the cause is.
Iron supplements are sometimes recommended as a type of drug therapy to treat menorrhagia, as this can help with anemic patients and prevent anemia, which can be caused by menorrhagia. Many women also use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen to help diminish the loss of blood and relieve the painful cramps that may be associated with heavy bleeding.
Some women also use oral contraceptives, such as birth control pills, to help manage their period cycle and heavy blood flow. Birth control pills can help reduce these excessive or prolonged episodes of menstrual bleeding that occur. Women can also take hormonal treatments, such as oral progesterone, to help restore the balance to the hormones in their body.
Lysteda, also known as tranexamic acid, is a non-hormonal medication women can take to improve blood clotting and reduce menstrual blood loss.
If drug therapies do not work to improve the menorrhagia, you may need surgical treatment. This can include dilation and curettage, which is a procedure in which the doctor dilates the cervix and scrapes out any tissue from the uterine lining to reduce the excessive menstrual bleeding. This procedure is rather common and successful, but it may need to be done an additional number of times if menorrhagia occurs again.
A uterine artery embolization is often used for women whose menorrhagia is caused by fibroids. This procedure will shrink those fibroids by blocking the uterine arteries and cutting off the blood supply. A myomectomy involves the surgical removal of uterine fibroids as well.
Endometrial ablation is another method of treatment in which the lining of the uterus is permanently destroyed. This will enable women to have much lighter periods. However, women who undergo this treatment should not get pregnant, as it can put their health at considerable risk.
In severe cases, a hysterectomy may be required. This is a permanent procedure in which the uterus and cervix are removed altogether, effectively stopping menorrhagia and menstruation. Women who have hysterectomies will permanently end their periods, and will not be able to get pregnant afterwards as a result.