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.
Abnormal bleeding can occur with the following:
A bleeding disorder
When you have a bleeding disorder, your blood doesn't clot normally, making it harder to stop bleeding. Lifelong heavy periods could be a symptom. The two most common of these disorders are hemophilia and von Willebrand disease.
It's crucial that a bleeding disorder be diagnosed, because it can be life threatening if not treated. Rush offers a benign bleeding disorders service focusing on the needs of women and men with non-cancerous blood disorders, including bleeding disorders.
Available treatments include hormonal, intravenous, oral and nasal spray medications to reduce bleeding.
Endometriosis occurs when 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. 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.
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.
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.
It's crucial that a bleeding disorder be diagnosed, because it can be life threatening if not treated.
If you experience a lighter than normal period plus any of the following symptoms, you may have Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid gland to produce excess hormones:
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Frequent bowel movements
- Weight loss
- Heat sensitivity
- Increased sweating
- Muscular weakness
- Changes in vision or how your eyes look
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hand tremors
Treatments include medications to lower thyroid hormone levels, radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid or surgical removal of the thyroid.