Amenorrhea, menorrhagia and dysmenorrhea: Learn the difference Amenorrhea, menorrhagia and dysmenorrhea: Learn the difference

When a woman experiences an abnormal menstrual cycle, she should see her physician to rule out whether it is caused by a medical condition and to get the right treatment.

The medical website from the Nemours Foundation, TeensHealth, explains some of the most common menstrual problems.

The absence of periods

Amenorrhea is the term used by doctors to refer to this condition. Girls who have yet to start their periods by the time they are 15 may have primary amenorrhea. This is usually caused by a hormone imbalance or developmental problem.

Secondary amenorrhea occurs when a girl stops menstruating for 3 continuous months. Amenorrhea is often caused by low levels of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which controls ovulation and the menstrual cycle. Examples of other factors that can leave your hormone levels out of balance include stress, anorexia, weight loss or weight gain, stopping birth control pills, thyroid conditions and ovarian cysts.

Heavy periods

Menorrhagia is the scientific term used to describe heavy, long-lasting periods. The most common cause is an imbalance between the amounts of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Due to this imbalance, the endometrium (the mucous membrane that lines the uterus) does not stop growing. When the body expels the endometrium during menstruation, the bleeding is very heavy. Other causes of this include thyroid conditions, bleeding disorders, or inflammation or infections in the vagina or cervix.

What if a period is painful?

This is known as dysmenorrhea. It is classified into primary dysmenorrhea (painful periods that are not caused by a disease or other condition) and secondary dysmenorrhea (painful periods caused by a disease or condition).

The primary cause of this condition is the release of prostaglandin, the same chemical the body produces that causes menstrual pain and that can trigger nausea, vomiting, headaches, kidney pain, diarrhea, and severe menstrual cramps. These symptoms last for one to two days and your physician can prescribe you anti-inflammatories to treat them.

Related article: The effects of early menstruation on health