Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
Heavy or abnormal vaginal bleeding is a condition which can unfortunately affect women of all ages. It is among the more common reasons for visits to a Houston Gynecologist and can have a variety of causes. Sometimes the cause may be easy to treat, while at times the treatment can be challenging.
Diagnosis of the exact cause of abnormal vaginal bleeding will be the first stage of treatment; in this article I will discuss what can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding in the first place, how a diagnosis can be made, and finally, the treatment methods available.
Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding Symptoms
If you are experiencing any kind of vaginal bleeding which is different from your usual pattern, you should consider consulting your Houston Gynecologist. If you discover that you are bleeding between periods or are experiencing heavier amounts than usual, or are bleeding for a longer period of time than usual, these are all considered as abnormal. Bleeding after sex, light spotting during the month and postmenopausal bleeding are also reasons for concern. Consult your OB GYN in Houston, TX regarding the symptoms you have.
A menstrual cycle begins on the first day of bleeding and ends on the first day of the next period. Abnormal menstrual cycles can be defined as:
- A cycle lasting more than thirty-five days
- A cycle lasting less than twenty-one days
- Absence of periods for three to six months (also called amenorrhea)
Unusual bleeding may occur at many stages of a woman’s life. The following scenarios are very common:
- Irregular periods in the first few years (ages 9–16)
- Shortened cycles in the mid-thirties
- Shortened cycles and varying volumes of bleeding near to the menopause (approx. Age 50)
Typical reasons for abnormal vaginal bleeding
Since there can be many reasons behind symptoms of abnormal vaginal bleeding, a doctor will typically begin by eliminating causes which are likely to affect a woman around your age. Ultimately, all possibilities need to checked thoroughly; many conditions are quick and easy to treat, whereas others may be more serious. In determining the reasons for abnormal vaginal bleeding, make sure you consult with the kind of OB GYN Houston, TX can trust.
Thyroid conditions and certain types of medication sometimes lead to a deficiency or surplus of various hormones; this can often be the root cause of abnormal vaginal bleeding. Unusual bleeding patterns often occur during pregnancy, before or after a miscarriage, and also in instances of ectopic pregnancies. There are a number of other situations which may lead to a departure from your usual bleeding routine. They are:
- The presence of fibroids
- The presence of polyps
- intrauterine device
(IUD) methods of contraception
- Infection of the uterus or cervix
- Problems with blood clotting
- Certain cancers such as those of the uterus, cervix and vagina
- Certain chronic medical diseases — e.g.: diabetes, thyroid conditions
Diagnosing the reason for the problem will be greatly facilitated if you are able to provide your doctor with as much of the following information as possible:
- Medical history (and that of your family)
- Your use of medicines
- Your use of contraception
- Weight, diet and exercise
- Stress levels
An extremely useful habit to adopt, whether or not you are experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding, is to keep a diary of your menstrual cycle. You should make a note of such details as:
- The dates of your periods
- The length of you periods
- The type of bleeding — heavy, average, light, spotting or none.
A physical examination will be undertaken by your Houston Gynecologist who may also arrange for a blood test to be performed (this will find out what your hormone levels are and also eliminate the possibility of a blood disease being the cause of your problem). Your OB GYN in Houston, TX may also have you tested to discover if you are pregnant and, depending on how you describe your symptoms and the judgment of your doctor, undergo various other investigative examinations. There are three types of procedure which may be performed:
There are three types of imaging techniques available. First, a picture of the pelvic area can be formed by passing sound waves through the body (ultrasound) and second, a similar technique is used, this time after fluid has been injected into the uterus through a tiny tube known as a catheter. The second technique is known as sonohysterography.
A traditional X-ray can also be taken after a dye has been introduced to the uterus and fallopian tubes — this is known as hysterosalpingography.
Hysteroscopy involves the insertion into the uterus of an optical device through which your doctor is able to visually examine you, whereas a laparoscopy allows a similar investigation, this time of the abdomen, through a tiny incision near to or on your naval.
There are two methods of removing small amounts of tissue from the body in order to undertake a laboratory examination. An endometrial biopsy is a procedure whereby a tiny catheter is placed in the uterus to remove the sample, and dilation and curettage (D&C) is the technique of either scraping or suctioning a sample from the lining of the uterus after the opening to the cervix has been enlarged.
Depending on your age, the cause of the problem and your plans regarding having a family, you may be prescribed medication, surgery or no immediate action. Whatever course is taken, it is likely you will have to return for another examination and tests to assess your progress.
Your future plans and you age will determine the types of hormones you may be given. At first, your periods may be heavier, but after a few months, hormones can be very effective at controlling abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Birth control pills will often help to establish a regular cycle and hormones may also be administered in several other ways. Injections and creams are common, as well as the gradual release of hormones via an IUD placed inside the uterus.
If your unusual bleeding is a result of endometrial hyperplasia (a thickening of the uterus walls), progesterone can help alleviate and prevent it. Menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding can be effectively treated by non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, etc.), whereas if your diagnosed with an infection, you will be prescribed antibiotics.
Small surgical procedures are often enough to remove polyps and fibroids, though your problem may require endometrial ablation. Here, the walls of the uterus are permanently destroyed (eliminating bleeding), with the result that the woman may no longer able to get pregnant.
If all else fails, it is possible to completely remove the womb (hysterectomy). This is considered to be major surgery, resulting in the cessation of periods and no possibility of having children.
Very often the causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding are straightforward to diagnose and efficiently counteracted with medication. You should visit your Houston Gynecologist if you are experiencing unusual cycles and once again if the symptoms persist even after treatment.