Menstrual Disorders: When 'Heavy Periods' Are Out Of Control
It's no secret that pain reported from female patients is less likely to be taken seriously than pain reported by males. This is especially true when it comes to menstrual pain. A woman is more likely to be told her pain is imagined or exaggerated, or that “everyone deals with it” by her physician. Some women will rightly seek another doctor, but others may believe that it's all in their head, or may be financially unable to. And that's when things get dangerous.
Because menstrual pain is assumed to be normal, some doctors stop listening to their patients after the first sentence, dismissively prescribing Midol or ibuprofen for cramps. But menstrual abnormalities can be very serious – sometimes fatal – if ignored. Below are a couple of serious conditions, followed by their warning signs.
Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition in which cysts form on or near the ovaries. Some women have this condition and never notice it, but others aren't so lucky. At its worst, the condition can result in extremely painful rupturing cysts, which can, if left untreated, lead to death.
Endometriosis (often abbreviated to Endo) is a condition in which the uterine lining develops outside the womb in the pelvic cavity. Like PCOS, it can go completely unnoticed by some women, while others will experience severe pain.
These and other female reproductive disorders have the following overlapping symptoms:
Irregular Periods. Though irregular periods are not necessarily a warning sign, especially in younger girls, it's a common symptom of lasting menstrual disorders.
Facial Hair. Most women have a bit of facial hair, but if you have pronounced, thick, or dark hair on your face, it may be a sign of high androgen levels.
Excessive Acne. Another symptom of the hormonal imbalance that results from PCOS and other disorders is excessive acne, especially if it doesn't respond to topical treatment.
Infertility. Women who experience few or no symptoms may only discover they're affected when trying to conceive.
Heavy Periods. There is no standard when it comes to menstrual flow, and most women alternate between heavy and light days. However, if you find yourself going through multiple pads in an hour, or having to wake up during the night to change an overnight pad, you may be experiencing abnormally heavy periods.
Clotting. Most women will experience some clots in their menstrual fluid at some time or another. A clot is simply a mass of uterine lining, and the occasional small clot is generally not cause for concern. However, if you find large (quarter-sized or greater) or frequent clots, you should report it to your gynecologist.
Hot Lower Back Pain: Menstrual cramps are one thing, but debilitating pain, especially in the lower back or pelvic cavity, can mean you're experiencing a rupturing cyst. Any time you feel “hot” back or belly pain, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Any one of these symptoms is worth your doctor's time and attention. A combination of two or more symptoms could be a sign of a serious disorder.
If you believe your health care professional isn't taking your concerns seriously, find another provider. The most important thing when dealing with your own physical well-being is not to be hushed. If you feel like something's wrong with your body, you're very likely right.
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