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Every woman's menstrual cycle is unique, but most women experience heavy menstrual periods at some point in their lives. However, periods that are consistently long-lasting or extremely heavy may signify menorrhagia.
Normally, the menstrual cycle recurs every 21 to 35 days. During the bleeding period of the cycle, which lasts about seven days, women lose between .85 and 2.7 fluid ounces (25-80 mL) of blood. Menorrhagia may be diagnosed when a woman loses more than 2.7 fluid ounces (80 mL) of blood and/or experiences periods lasting more than seven days. However, unlike hypermenorrhea, which is constituted by heavy bleeding at abnormal intervals, menorrhagia generally occurs within a menstrual cycle of normal length.
There are a number of different conditions that might cause a woman to experience menorrhagia. For example, prolonged and heavy bleeding may be a symptom of abnormal blood clotting. It might also signify fibroids or cancer of the uterine lining. In some cases, menorrhagia may be caused by certain birth control methods, such as intrauterine devices (IUD).
Untreated, menorrhagia may lead to a number of other health problems. Most commonly, women who experience menorrhagia may develop iron deficiency anemia due to the excessive blood loss. In many cases, menorrhagia is accompanied by dysmenorrhea, or abnormally painful menstrual periods. Painful menorrhagia is generally a symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
In order to manage the increased bleeding, women with menorrhagia may use higher-absorbency tampons or be tempted to use more than one tampon at a time. As a result, sufferers are also at greater risk for developing toxic shock syndrome. Regardless of how heavy one's period is, it is never a good idea to use more than one tampon.
Because menorrhagia is usually a symptom of another underlying condition, treatment varies depending on the cause of the bleeding. It is important to see one's doctor in order to diagnose and treat whatever is disrupting the menstrual cycle. Oral contraceptives are frequently prescribed to regulate the period. In cases of very advanced uterine cancer, physicians may suggest a hysterectomy to remove the cancerous tissue. Furthermore, iron supplements may be prescribed to counteract the loss of blood caused by menorrhagia.
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