An Overview of Common Menstrual Conditions
When you menstruate each month, mild cramps, cravings, and discomfort are expected. Many people, unfortunately, endure menstrual disorders throughout their life. You shouldn't have to deal with the difficult symptoms such disorders may bring each month, and being able to identify one can help you treat the symptoms.
Here is a look at some of the more common menstrual conditions:
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
PMS is a common condition that affects as many as 75 percent of women with regular menstrual cycles. It occurs between ovulation and their period. For many PMS sufferers, symptoms can dissipate once their period begins. Smoking and being obese are among the risk factors for PMS.
With more than 100 symptoms associated with the condition, narrowing them down is difficult, but the most common include depression, mood swings, bloating, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, and painful or tender breasts.
Treatment options won't cure PMS but can help alleviate the symptoms associated with the condition. You can try hormonal contraceptives, rest, pain medication, regular exercise, and on occasion, antidepressants.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
PMDD is a severe form of PMS that has similar symptoms, though they may be significantly worse and interrupt your daily life. It's estimated that 5 percent of menstruating women will experience the premenstrual dysmorphic disorder.
Symptoms include high irritability, anxiety, mood swings, depression, difficulty concentrating, heart palpitations, paranoia, body image issues, and forgetfulness in the two weeks leading up to your period. Symptoms usually go away two to three days after your period begins.
Treatment includes antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and oral contraceptives. Regular exercise, stress management, and dietary changes may also help alleviate some symptoms. If you experience considerable PMS symptoms regularly, it might be time to talk to your doctor about PMDD. Often, women with PMDD assume what they are experiencing is normal PMS.
On average, a period will cause you to lose 10 to 35 milliliters of blood. Significantly more or less can be an indication that something is wrong. Heavy bleeding, no bleeding, or painful bleeding during menstruation is not normal and should be addressed by a doctor. Once it is diagnosed—three of the common diagnoses are discussed below—abnormal bleeding can be treated.
Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding)
If you have menorrhagia, your periods may last longer than seven days and be so heavy they're hardly manageable. Symptoms that may be indicators you have menorrhagia include:
- Bleeding through a pad or a tampon every hour for several hours
- Passing large blood clots
- Having to double up on your sanitary protection or change protection in the middle of the night
Amenorrhea (no menstrual bleeding)
You won't have a period after you've reached menopause if you're pregnant or using certain birth controls, but the absence of a period any other time is called amenorrhea. It can be an indication of an underlying health condition such as abnormalities in the reproductive organs, obesity, malnutrition, ovarian cancer, and thyroid problems.
If you haven't had a period for three months or are 16 and haven't had a period yet, you may have amenorrhea. Talk to your doctor.
Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual bleeding)
Pain in your abdomen, lower back, and thighs that starts about two days before your period begins and lasts for longer than three days may be an indication you have dysmenorrhea. This disorder may make you feel fatigued or nauseous and have diarrhea. Dysmenorrhea can also stem from an abnormality in your reproductive organs, but this can be treated. If you have endometriosis or uterine fibroids, you're at higher risk for dysmenorrhea.
Don't dismiss symptoms
If your normal period is unmanageable or you experience a sudden shift in the symptoms of your cycle, you should consult your gynecologist. It's possible you may never experience one of these common menstrual disorders, but it's important to be aware of them. While you may be convinced that the side effects of your period are "normal," you could be experiencing one of these conditions, any of which you can work with your gynecologist to manage.