Hypermenorrhea, also known as menorrhagia, is an excessively long or heavy menstrual cycle experienced on a regular basis. While around 30 percent of women have a heavy period, it is estimated that only about 10 percent of women suffer from hypermenorrhea. A typical menstrual cycle lasts for an average of five days, and has a total blood loss of less than 1/3 cup (80 ml). However, a woman with a menstrual cycle lasting longer than seven days, with a blood loss of greater than 1/3 cup (80 ml) is considered to have hypermenorrhea.
The excessive bleeding of this condition is caused by hormonal imbalances, or various medical conditions. Uterine fibroids and endometrial cancer can both cause a thickening of the uterine wall, which leads to heavy bleeding. Vaginal inflammation, uterine polyps, and thyroid conditions can also be contributing factors
Common symptoms include a heavy menstrual flow that requires changing of sanitary napkins or tampons every one to two hours, and large blood clots in the menstrual blood. It is best to consult a physician as soon as possible if you suspect you may be suffering from hypermenorrhea. Iron deficiency anemia may result if the condition goes untreated, as the excessive bleeding can deplete the iron levels of the blood. Experiencing symptoms of anemia, such as shortness of breath and fatigue, in conjunction with other symptoms, can be an indication that the condition is present.
Some women are at higher risk for developing the disorder. Adolescent girls are more prone to the condition in the 12-18 months following their first period, as they are not yet ovulating regularly. Women approaching menopause are also more likely to experience heavy bleeding, as hormonal imbalances are more common at this time. However, hypermenorrhea can affect women of all ages at any time during their reproductive life.
Hypermenorrhea treatment is dependent upon your overall health, and the cause and severity of the problem. Drug therapy may be one option, and includes iron supplements if anemia is present, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce bleeding, oral contraceptives, and synthetic hormones such as progesterone. If drug treatment is not successful, surgery may be necessary.
Surgical procedures are varied and will depend on the severity of the case. Dilation and curettage, also known as “D and C,” is performed by dilating the cervix and scraping or suctioning excess tissue from the uterine walls to reduce menstrual bleeding. Endometrial ablation uses ultrasonic energy to destroy the uterine lining permanently, which often results in normal menstrual flow thereafter. Endometrial resection uses an electrosurgical wire loop to remove the lining of the uterus, and is typically used when heavy bleeding is experienced, but no underlying uterine problems are present.