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Health Information Women’s Health: Menstruation

Are My Periods Normal?

Abnormal periods could be a sign of a bigger problem

Short or long, heavy or light, most women assume their periods are normal because that’s all they’ve known.

But very heavy or very light periods could signal a health problem.

Periods are considered too heavy when you need a new tampon every hour. Some women may have very light periods and be normal. Missing a period, especially for more than one month, may be abnormal.

You should also be concerned when bleeding is different in any way from your usual cycle, says Alexis Jones, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Sources of trouble

Abnormal bleeding can occur with the following:

A bleeding disorder. The blood doesn’t clot normally, making it harder to stop bleeding. Lifelong heavy periods could be a symptom.

It’s important that a bleeding disorder be diagnosed, because it can be life threatening if not treated, says Leonard Valentino, MD, director of the Hemophilia and Thrombophilia Center at Rush. Rush is one of only a few facilities in the country to offer a multidisciplinary bleeding disorders clinic focusing on the needs of females with blood-clotting disorders.

Available treatments include hormonal, intravenous, oral and nasal spray medications to reduce bleeding.

Endometriosis. Tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus on other organs. Symptoms can include chronic pelvic pain and heavy or abnormal bleeding. However, symptoms can vary.

“In fact, some women may not feel pain at all and don’t find out they have endometriosis until they have problems conceiving and undergo testing, ” Jones says.

Thirty to 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile. Experts believe that scar tissue prevents fertilization or attachment of the egg.

Treatment includes hormone therapy or surgery to remove excess endometrial tissue. The uterus or ovaries may also be removed.

Fibroids. These uterine tumors can range from the size of a pea to the size of a grapefruit but are almost never cancerous. Symptoms include heavy periods with clots, bleeding between periods and pelvic pain.

“If you have fibroids and bowel and bladder issues, problems getting pregnant, problems during pregnancy or anemia, it’s time to seek treatment, ” Jones says.

Treatments for fibroids may include hormone therapy, surgical removal or a hysterectomy. Less invasive treatments include uterine artery embolization, which cuts off the blood supply to the fibroid, causing it to shrink.

Graves’ disease. If you experience a lighter period than normal and fatigue, trouble sleeping, trouble getting pregnant, frequent bowel movements, irritability, weight loss, heat sensitivity, increased sweating, muscular weakness, changes in vision or how your eyes look, rapid heartbeat or hand tremors, you may be experiencing symptoms of Graves’ disease. This autoimmune disease causes the thyroid gland to produce excess hormones.

Treatments include medications to lower thyroid hormone levels, radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid or surgical removal of the thyroid.

Getting help

If you’re concerned that your period seems heavier or lighter than is considered normal or your period has changed, physicians at Rush can help you get to the bottom of it. Call (888) 352-RUSH (7874) to make an appointment.


Women’s Health Services at
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

Rush University Medical Center offers comprehensive health care services for women of all ages.

At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, medical science blends with a sincere commitment to provide women with the absolute finest, most compassionate care. Specialists and subspecialists work together to address the special needs of women, from common to complex to the everyday needs of women and their families.

We offer direct access to the latest innovations and options — from prenatal care for high risk pregnancies, to diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of abdominal and pelvic disorders, to leading-edge research.

For more information about health services and medical care for women at Rush visit the Women’s Health Services home page.

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Discover Rush, 2007 - Fall
Women’s Health: Menstruation

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