Menstruation occurs every 21 to 35 days in every woman. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is any bleeding unrelated to normal menstruation. This may be spotting of small amounts of blood (between periods), or menstrual flow which is heavier than normal.
Some of the causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding include:
- Hormonal changes
- Contraception pills or intrauterine device (IUD)
- Infection of the vagina or uterus
- Problem with blood clotting
- Cancer of the uterus or vagina
- Trauma to the vagina
- Polyps or fibroids (an abnormal outgrowth of tissues or tumors)
- Certain diseases
Symptoms of abnormal vaginal bleeding include bleeding between periods or after sex, spotting after menstruation, bleeding heavier or for more days than normal, and bleeding after menopause.
Your doctor will examine your family health history as well as complete details of your menstrual cycles (dates, length, and type of bleeding). You will also have a physical examination and blood tests to check your hormonal levels to diagnose the cause of your bleeding. Your doctor may also order a pregnancy test to rule out the possibility of pregnancy. A range of imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI scans, which produce images of your internal organs, may also be ordered to diagnose irregular bleeding. A cervical smear and swab may be taken and sent for sampling to determine any abnormalities.
The types of treatment for abnormal vaginal bleeding are based on many factors such as to cause of bleeding, age and whether you want to have a child. Most cases of abnormal vaginal bleeding can be treated with medications, except for a few cases which may require surgery.
Hormonal medications used to treat abnormal bleeding depend on whether or not you want to get pregnant and your age factor. Hormones can be given as injections, vaginal creams or through intrauterine devices (birth control device which is inserted into the uterus). The hormones are slowly released into the body by these means and control the abnormal bleeding. Your doctor may prescribe other medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics to reduce bleeding and infections respectively.
Your doctor will recommend surgical treatment if the bleeding is caused by polyps or fibroids. Surgery is performed to excise the polyps or fibroids by a procedure called hysteroscopy, which uses a flexible tube or endoscope. Some other procedures like endometrial ablations (removal of a thin layer of the uterine wall to reduce bleeding) may also be performed. Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) may be considered if all other forms of treatments have failed. You can no longer conceive after hysterectomy.
Along with these treatments, you can take good care of yourself by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, and getting a proper amount of sleep.