Disorders of ovulation
Disorders of ovulation include oligoovulation and anovulation:
Oligoovulation is infrequent or irregular ovulation (usually defined as cycles of ≥36 days or <8 cycles a year)
Anovulation is absence of ovulation when it would be normally expected (in a post-menarchal, premenopausal woman). Anovulation usually manifests itself as irregularity of menstrual periods, that is, unpredictable variability of intervals, duration, or bleeding. Anovulation can also cause cessation of periods (secondary amenorrhea) or excessive bleeding (dysfunctional uterine bleeding).
Disorders of cycle length
Polymenorrhea is the medical term for cycles with intervals of 21 days or fewer.
Irregular menstruation is where there is variation in menstrual cycle length of more than approximately eight days for a woman. The term metrorrhagia is often used for irregular menstruation that occurs between the expected menstrual periods.
Oligomenorrhea is the medical term for infrequent, often light menstrual periods (intervals exceeding 35 days).
Amenorrhea is the absence of a menstrual period in a woman of reproductive age. Physiologic states of amenorrhoea are seen during pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding). Outside of the reproductive years there is absence of menses during childhood and after menopause.
Disorders of flow
Abnormal uterine bleeding is a general category that includes any bleeding from menstrual or nonmenstrual causes. Hypomenorrhea is abnormally light menstrual periods. Menorrhagia (meno = month, rrhagia = excessive flow/discharge) is an abnormally heavy and prolonged menstrual period. Metrorrhagia is bleeding at irregular times, especially outside the expected intervals of the menstrual cycle. If there is excessive menstrual and uterine bleeding other than that caused by menstruation, menometrorrhagia (meno = prolonged, metro = uterine, rrhagia = excessive flow/discharge) may be diagnosed. Causes may be due to abnormal blood clotting, disruption of normal hormonal regulation of periods or disorders of the endometrial lining of the uterus. Depending upon the cause, it may be associated with abnormally painful periods.
Dysmenorrhea (or dysmenorrhoea), cramps or painful menstruation, involves menstrual periods that are accompanied by either sharp, intermittent pain or dull, aching pain, usually in the pelvis or lower abdomen.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to physical and emotional symptoms that occur in the one to two weeks before a woman’s period. Symptoms often vary between women and resolve around the start of bleeding. Common symptoms include acne, tender breasts, bloating, feeling tired, irritability, and mood changes. Often symptoms are present for around six days. A woman’s pattern of symptoms may change over time. Symptoms do not occur during pregnancy or following menopause.
Diagnosis requires a consistent pattern of emotional and physical symptoms occurring after ovulation and before menstruation to a degree that interferes with normal life. Emotional symptoms must not be present during the initial part of the menstrual cycle. A daily list of symptoms over a few months may help in diagnosis. Other disorders that cause similar symptoms need to be excluded before a diagnosis is made.
More than 200 different symptoms have been associated with PMS. Common emotional and non-specific symptoms include stress, anxiety, difficulty with sleep, headache, feeling tired, mood swings, increased emotional sensitivity, and changes in interest in sex.
Physical symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle include bloating, lower back pain, abdominal cramps, constipation/diarrhea, swelling or tenderness in the breasts, cyclic acne, and joint or muscle pain, and food cravings. The exact symptoms and their intensity vary significantly from woman to woman, and even somewhat from cycle to cycle and over time. Most women with premenstrual syndrome experience only a few of the possible symptoms, in a relatively predictable pattern
There is no laboratory test or unique physical findings to verify the diagnosis of PMS. The three key features are:
The woman’s chief complaint is one or more of the emotional symptoms associated with PMS (most typically irritability, tension, or unhappiness). The woman does not have PMS if she only has physical symptoms (such as cramps or bloating).
Symptoms appear predictably during the luteal (premenstrual) phase, reduce or disappear predictably shortly before or during menstruation, and remain absent during the before ovulation.
The symptoms must be severe enough to disrupt or interfere with the woman’s everyday life.
Mild PMS is common, and more severe symptoms would qualify as PMDD. PMS is not listed in the DSM-IV, unlike PMDD. To establish a pattern and determine if it is PMDD, a woman’s physician may ask her to keep a prospective record of her symptoms on a calendar for at least two menstrual cycles. This will help to establish if the symptoms are, indeed, limited to the premenstrual time, predictably recurring, and disruptive to normal functioning. A number of standardized instruments have been developed to describe PMS, including the Calendar of Premenstrual syndrome Experiences (COPE), the Prospective Record of the Impact and Severity of Menstruation (PRISM), and the Visual Analogue Scales (VAS).
Other conditions that may better explain symptoms must be excluded. A number of medical conditions are subject to exacerbation at menstruation, a process called menstrual magnification. These conditions may lead the woman to believe that she has PMS, when the underlying disorder may be some other problem, such as anemia, hypothyroidism, eating disorders and substance abuse. A key feature is that these conditions may also be present outside of the luteal phase. Conditions that can be magnified perimenstrually include depression or other affective disorders, migraine, seizure disorders, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and allergies. Problems with other aspects of the female reproductive system must be excluded, including dysmenorrhea (pain during the menstrual period, rather than before it), endometriosis, perimenopause, and adverse effects produced by oral contraceptive pills.
The National Institute of Mental Health research definition compares the intensity of symptoms from cycle days 5 to 10 to the six-day interval before the onset of the menstrual period. To qualify as PMS, symptom intensity must increase at least 30% in the six days before menstruation. Additionally, this pattern must be documented for at least two consecutive cycles.