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When 'the curse' is at its worst, seek help
Women can find relief from abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding

Date published: 4/17/2005

WE'VE COME UP WITH multiple euphemisms to describe it--the curse, the rag, that time of the month, etc. Of course, I'm talking about the monthly period.

Under normal circumstances, it's merely a minor inconvenience for most women. The flow normally lasts for three to seven days, with most women changing their pad or tampon every three or four hours or so at the most.

However, for some women, bleeding is more than an inconvenience. Some women experience very heavy bleeding or bleeding that lasts way beyond the upper range of normal, and this kind of bleeding can be dangerous.

Women whose bleeding lasts longer or is heavier than normal are said to have AUB, or abnormal uterine bleeding. AUB can result from organic causes such as fibroids, uterine polyps, adenomyosis (growth of the tissue lining the inside of the uterus into the uterine muscle) or uterine cancers.

If none of these conditions are present, then abnormal bleeding is assumed to be due to hormonal factors. In this case, it's called DUB, or dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Two groups of women in particular are affected by DUB: adolescent and peri-menopausal women.

Normally, an egg is released from the ovary every 28 days, more or less, which leads to a period. Women with DUB don't experience this monthly ovulation, and can experience infrequent but prolonged and heavy periods.

Condition common in teens

When a girl starts her period at age 12 (give or take), it's not uncommon for the periods to be very irregular and heavy. In fact, this scenario is very common.

In the extreme, bleeding can be so heavy and last so long that it results in severe anemia. At the very least, DUB is intrusive and annoying.

Fortunately, treatment of DUB in adolescent girls--with combination hormone therapy such as the birth control pill or patch--is very effective. The DUB usually resolves spontaneously over time as the menstrual regulatory system matures. But, be aware that resolution can take years.

A second very common time for DUB to occur is during the peri-menopausal period. This can start as early as the mid- to late-30s and extend until menopause, which occurs on average at 51.


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