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What kinds of problems do women have with their periods?

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Updated November 04, 2011

Women can have various kinds of problems with their periods, including pain, heavy bleeding, and skipped periods.

Amenorrhea - the lack of a menstrual period. This term is used to describe the absence of a period in young women who haven't started menstruating by age 16, or the absence of a period in women who used to have a regular period. Causes of amenorrhea include pregnancy, breastfeeding, and extreme weight loss caused by serious illness, eating disorders, excessive exercising, or stress. Hormonal problems (involving the pituitary, thyroid, ovary, or adrenal glands) or problems with the reproductive organs may be involved.

More: Why is My Period Late?

Dysmenorrhea - painful periods, including severe menstrual cramps. In younger women, there is often no known disease or condition associated with the pain. A hormone called prostaglandin is responsible for the symptoms. Some pain medicines available over the counter, such as ibuprofen, can help with these symptoms. Sometimes a disease or condition, such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis, causes the pain. Treatment depends on what is causing the problem and how severe it is.

More: What You Need to Know About Menstrual Cramps

Abnormal uterine bleeding - vaginal bleeding that is different from normal menstrual periods. It includes very heavy bleeding or unusually long periods (also called menorrhagia), periods too close together, and bleeding between periods. In adolescents and women approaching menopause, hormone imbalance problems often cause menorrhagia along with irregular cycles. Sometimes this is called dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB). Other causes of abnormal bleeding include uterine fibroids and polyps. Treatment for abnormal bleeding depends on the cause.

More: Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Next page: At What Age Do Girls Get Their Periods? How Long Does Menstruation Last?

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