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Menstrual Irregularities


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are menstrual irregularities?

Menstrual irregularities are common abnormalities of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Menstrual irregularities include a variety of conditions in which menstruation is irregular, heavy, painful, or does not occur at all.

Common types of menstrual irregularities include:

  • Amenorrhea (when a teenager does not get her period by age 16, or when a woman stops getting her period for at least three months and is not pregnant)

  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods)

  • Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual periods)

  • Oligomenorrhea (menstrual bleeding occurring more than 35 days after the last menstrual period, that is, less than 10 periods a year)

  • Polymenorrhea (menstrual bleeding occurring less than 21 days after the last menstrual period, that is, more than 12 periods a year)

  • Spotting (light irregular vaginal bleeding or vaginal bleeding between periods)

Menstrual irregularities or their symptoms, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, can be caused by a wide variety of abnormal conditions, including pregnancy, hormonal imbalances or changes, infection (sexually transmitted diseases and other infections), malignancy (cervical, uterine or vaginal cancer), trauma, and certain medications. Treatment of menstrual irregularities varies and is tailored to the individual case, the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms, and the presence of any complications.

Some menstrual irregularities can be caused by serious, even life-threatening conditions, such as uterine cancer. Seek prompt medical care if you have menstrual irregularities, such as heavy menstrual periods or a lack of menstrual periods. Early diagnosis and treatment of menstrual irregularities reduces the risk of serious complications, such as infertility and metastatic uterine cancer. 

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 6, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB). MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Heavy, prolonged, or irregular periods. UNC Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
  3. Vaginal bleeding between periods. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  4. Committee on Practice Bulletins—Gynecology. Practice bulletin no. 128: diagnosis of abnormal uterine bleeding in reproductive-aged women. Obstet Gynecol 2012; 120:197.
  5. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.

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