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Menstrual irregularities are problems with a girl’s normal monthly period. For example, girls may miss periods, have them too frequently, have painful periods, or have excessively heavy flow.
Menstrual irregularities can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health issue.
Causes & Risk Factors
Possible causes include:
- Eating disorders
- Extreme weight loss
- Excessive exercise
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a common hormonal disorder that may cause irregular periods
- Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) – a common condition where the ovaries stop functioning normally; may cause periods to stop or occur irregularly
- Endometriosis – condition in which uterine tissue grows elsewhere in the body; may cause heavy, painful periods
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – infection of the reproductive organs; may cause irregular periods
- Uterine fibroids – noncancerous growths of the uterus; may cause painful periods, heavy bleeding, and bleeding in between periods
Symptoms & Types
Menstrual irregularities include:
- Periods that are too far apart – instead of once a month
- Periods that are too close together – occurring every two or three weeks
- Period doesn’t start by age 16 (amenorrhea)
- Periods stop occurring (amenorrhea) – for at least 3 months and the woman is not pregnant
- Periods that don’t come regularly (oligomenorrhea) – occurring infrequently
- Heavy periods, or prolonged bleeding
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea) – severe menstrual cramps
Fever and illness after using tampons (toxic shock syndrome)
Diagnosis & Tests
Diagnosis starts with a thorough medical history, including a detailed discussion of a girl’s menstrual periods, what’s normal for her, and what irregularities are occurring.
A physical exam will also be conducted and when necessary, a pelvic exam.
In cases where a girl is sexually active, a pregnancy test and screening for infections may also be performed.
Treatment & Care
Treatment depends on the individual, her symptoms, and any underlying health issues causing the menstrual irregularity.
Treatment strategies may include:
- Pain medication
- Hormone therapy or birth control pills to help regulate the menstrual cycle
- Regular pelvic exams – to ensure underlying problems are treated as soon as possible
- Surgery, in rare cases