Menorrhagia Symptoms and Risks

Excessive blood loss during a menstrual period is known as menorrhagia, and there are many potential causes of this excess blood loss. While some potential causes of menorrhagia include serious problems such as cancer and uterine fibroids, it may also be caused by something as simple as a vitamin K deficiency. The menstrual cycles for those with menorrhagia are generally at regular cycle intervals, but will have excessive flow and extended duration.

The clinical definition of menorrhagia includes periods which last longer than seven days, or a total blood loss which exceeds 80 mL per cycle. (the "normal" blood loss during a period is considered to be 25-80 mL, and there are 5 mL in a teaspoon, therefore 80 mL would equal approximately 1/3 of a cup). Doctors generally determine your level of blood loss by asking you how many tampons or pads you go through-the average tampon holds 5 mL and the average pad can hold form 5-15 mL. Nearly 30% of all hysterectomies currently performed in the United States are done specifically to alleviate heavy menstrual bleeding. Menorrhagia is a leading cause for women to visit their gynecologists, however only 10-20% of those who visit with this complaint are diagnosed with blood loss severe enough to be defined as menorrhagia.

The Risks Involved with Menorrhagia

While occasional episodes of menorrhagia generally offer to substantial risks to a woman's health, those who lose more than 80 mL of blood repetitively can be at risk for more serious health problems. Women can end up iron-deficient as a result of the excessive blood loss, and menorrhagia is the most common cause of anemia in premenopausal women. An iron supplement may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of iron deficiency, and in some extreme cases iron deficiency can cause a woman to experience shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations or even hospitalization for a possible transfusion. Those women who do not respond to medical therapy may eventually need surgical intervention to control the menorrhagia

Symptoms of Menorrhagia

In addition to iron depletion, women with menorrhagia may experience hypothyroidism, and the symptoms which accompany a low-functioning thyroid such as cold intolerance, hair loss, dry skin or weight gain. The excessive monthly blood loss can cause you to be extremely fatigued with a tiredness that never seems to end, and you may experience pale skin as well.

Doctor's Determination of Menorrhagia

Your doctor will perform a physical examination, and will ask about specific blood loss and anemia symptoms, will check for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), will check for signs of trauma or bleeding disorder, will perform a thyroid evaluation, will check for enlarged liver or spleen, will examine visual fields and bleeding gums, and will do a pelvic examination to look for external genital lesions. A copious vaginal discharge may indicate infection and the doctor may additionally perform a pelvic ultrasound. Obesity and pronounced acne can also be contributors to menorrhagia, as well as signs of PCOS.


Your doctor may prescribe iron supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil or Motrin, or oral contraceptives to regulate menstrual cycles and reduce episodes of excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding. Oral progesterone may be prescribed for ten or more days of each menstrual cycle to help correct hormonal imbalance and reduce the excessive bleeding of menorrhagia. Your doctor may also prescribe Mirena, a hormonal IUD, which releases a type of progestin called levonorgestrel which makes the uterine lining thin and decreases menstrual blood flow and cramping. Self-care can include getting plenty of regular exercise and eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and other foods with high levels of Vitamin K.

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