Menorrhagia, commonly referred to as heavy menstrual bleeding, is known to affect one in every five women all over the world. It lasts for a duration of 7 days or more, and the heavy bleeding requires the affected woman to change her sanitary napkins or tampons about every 2 hours. A woman suffering from menorrhagia is also known to pass clotted blood with pieces that are bigger than a quarter. It is known to cause anemia due to the severe blood volume lost during the heavy periods. Menorrhagia is a severe condition and requires immediate medical attention.
In more than half of the women diagnosed with menorrhagia, the underlying cause of the condition cannot be spotted. However, there are a few conditions which can lead to heavy menstrual bleeding in women.
For young girls, the causes could be hormonal changes which occur during adolescence when the girl is going through puberty. Another possible reason is inherited blood disorders like the von Willebrand’s disease, where the blood-clotting function is impaired. A few other medical diseases such as the Pelvic inflammatory disease or illnesses of the kidney and thyroid also cause abnormal menstrual bleeding.
For older women, complications during pregnancy, especially a miscarriage, can lead to menorrhagia. Other than that, an ectopic pregnancy (which occurs when the fertilized egg slips into the fallopian tube rather than the uterus) could also be the underlying reason. Also, menopause affects the estrogen and progesterone production to lead to heavy vaginal bleeding. And a widely known cause in middle-aged women is polyps which are small growths in the uterine lining.
Signs and Symptoms
Women suffering from menorrhagia need to change their tampons every 2 hours, or even more than that. They also face constant pain in their lower abdomen, have menses for longer than a week, require multiple tampon/ sanitary pad change every night, and pass coin-sized pieces of clotted blood. The loss of blood can also lead to tiredness, fatigue and anemia.
Menorrhagia can be diagnosed by a complete physical exam by a doctor. Blood tests to check for anemia, ultrasounds of the uterus and ovaries, and endometrial biopsies to take sample tissue from the uterus are also an efficient way to confirm if a woman is suffering from the disease.
Menorrhagia is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Treatments are however different for each woman depending on her personal situation. The non-surgical options include iron supplements, oral contraceptives, hormonal intrauterine devices, and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication.
There is also a hormonal therapy to regulate the menstrual cycle and balance the lining of the uterus. As a part of the therapy, a supplement is taken for 14 to 27 days, depending on one’s menstrual cycle, as it produces a hormone called progesterone which the female body would normally do during a period.
If the drug therapy does not work, a hysteroscopy can be performed in which the uterine masses are removed by the doctor using a long thin scope. Then, there is dilation and curettage which involves dilating and then scraping out the uterine lining.
Other options are endometrial ablation or endometrial resection, which can be performed to destroy the uterus lining permanently. Women can also opt for a full hysterectomy and get the cervix, uterus and ovaries removed. These surgeries are only recommended as a last resort because they destroy all chances of getting pregnant.