What can cause heavy irregular periods?

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Answered by: Kit, An Expert in the Women's Health - General Category
During a woman’s menstrual cycle there may be times in which heavy irregular periods are experienced. Sometimes these are caused due to illness, an increase in stress or a change in diet. In such cases they will pass and need no further investigation. However, for some women, heavy irregular periods can be a sign that they are suffering from a condition called Endometriosis and these are the signs and symptoms. What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition whereby the lining of the womb, which is normally shed each month in the form of menstrual blood, attaches itself to the other female sexual organs, or sometimes to the lungs, liver or even the inside of the nose. These pockets of old menstrual blood have no way of being shed and can therefore end up causing intense pain every month and heavier than normal bleeding.

Sometimes, the blood forms cysts which attach themselves to the ovaries. These are called “chocolate cysts” because the blood inside them is older and dark brown in colour. These cysts can be relatively small in size or large and can cause intense pain and discomfort. Some women, however, can have endometriosis without realising it as they are symptom and pain free, whilst others are not so lucky.Symptoms of Endometriosis

Some women will experience a lot of pain, heavy bleeding and fatigue with endometriosis. This will usually, but not exclusively, be related to the menstrual cycle. Endometriosis pain can occur at any time of the month in some sufferers. In addition to this, pain may also occur in the bladder and bowel as the lining of the womb can attach itself to these organs, causing pain on urination or on opening of the bowels. This pain may occur before, during and after the period.

Treatments for Endometriosis

The first step is to talk to a GP or healthcare professional about any issues experienced with the menstrual cycle. He or she can then make a decision on what to do next. Sometimes a scan can detect cysts or pockets of tissue that are present. A laparoscopy, which is a short keyhole surgical operation, will be performed to make a correct diagnosis. Any pockets of tissue or cysts may be removed there and then; afterwards a short course of hormone treatment or the pill may be prescribed to keep the symptoms under control.

Adequate pain relief is a must. This is a very individual thing and must be discussed fully with a GP but typically they might prescribe either an opiate such as codeine phosphate or an NSAID such as Ibuprofen or Diclofenac to help manage both period pain and any other spurious attacks. Additional therapies like heat patches applied to the areas of discomfort are also a must. Looking into diet may be of benefit, some scientific studies have shown that wheat, dairy and too much red meat can have a bearing on the amount of pain Endometriosis sufferers endure.

While Endometriosis can be a distressing and painful condition, it can be managed and kept under control with the right medications and pain relief.

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