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Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB)

Definition

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB) is abnormal bleeding from the vagina that is due to changes in hormone levels.

Alternative Names

Anovulatory bleeding; Bleeding - dysfunctional uterine; DUB; Abnormal uterine bleeding; Menorrhagia - dysfunctional; Polymenorrhea - dysfunctional; Metrorrhagia - dysfunctional

Causes

Every woman's menstrual cycle, or period, is different. On average, a woman's period occurs every 28 days. Most women have cycles between 24 and 34 days apart. It usually lasts 4 - 7 days.

Young girls may get their periods anywhere from 21 to 45 days or more apart. Women in their 40s will often notice their period occurring less often.

About every month, the levels of female hormones in a woman's body rise and fall. Estrogen and progesterone are two very important hormones. These hormones play an important role in ovulation, the time when the ovaries release an egg.

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB) most commonly occurs when the ovaries do not release an egg. Changes in hormone levels cause your period to be later or earlier and sometimes heavier than normal.

Symptoms

Symptoms of dysfunctional uterine bleeding may include:

  • Bleeding or spotting from the vagina between periods
  • Periods that occur less than 28 days apart (more common) or more than 35 days apart
  • Time between periods changes each month
  • Heavier bleeding (such as passing large clots, needing to change protection during the night, soaking through a sanitary pad or tampon every hour for 2 - 3 hours in a row)
  • Bleeding lasts for more days than normal or for more than 7 days

Other symptoms caused by changes in hormone levels may include:

  • Excessive growth of body hair in a male pattern (hirsutism)
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Tenderness and dryness of the vagina

A woman may feel tired or have fatigue if she is loses too much blood over time. This is a symptom of anemia.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will do a pelvic examination and may perform a Pap smear. Tests that may be done include:

Your health care provider may recommend the following:

  • Biopsy to look for infection, precancer, or cancer, or to help decide on hormone treatment
  • Hysteroscopy, performed in the doctor's office, to look into the uterus through the vagina.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound to look for problems in the uterus or pelvis

Treatment

Young women within a few years of their first period are often not treated unless symptoms are very severe, such as heavy blood loss causing anemia.

In other women, the goal of treatment is to control the menstrual cycle. Treatment may include:

  • Birth control pills or progesterone only pills
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) that releases the hormone progestin
  • Ibuprofen or naproxen taken just before the period starts

The health care provider may recommend iron supplements for women with anemia.

If you want to get pregnant, you may be given medication to stimulate ovulation.

Women with severe symptoms that do not get better with other treatments may consider the following procedures if they no longer want to have children:

  • Endometrial ablation or resection to destroy or remove the lning of the uterus
  • Hysterectomy to remove the uterus
  • D and C to remove polyps and diagnose certain conditions

Outlook (Prognosis)

Hormone therapy usually relieves symptoms. Treatment may not be needed if you do not develop anemia due to blood loss.

Possible Complications

  • Infertility (inability to get pregnant)
  • Severe anemia due to a lot of blood loss over time
  • Increased risk for endometrial cancer

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have unusual vaginal bleeding.

References

Lobo RA. Abnormal uterine bleeding: Ovulatory and anovulatory dysfunctional uterine bleeding, management of acute and chronic excessive bleeding. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2007:chap 37.

Kaunitz AM, Meredith S, Inki P, Kubba A, Sanchez-Ramos L. Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system and endometrial ablation in heavy menstrual bleeding: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;113:1104-1116.

Casablanca Y. Management of dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2008;35:219-234.

Damlo S. ACOG guidelines on endometrial ablation. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:545-549.

ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 110: noncontraceptive uses of hormonal contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Jan;115(1):206-18.

Middleton LJ, Champaneria R, Daniels JP, Bhattacharya S, Cooper KG, Hilken NH, et al. Hysterectomy, endometrial destruction, and levonorgestrel releasing intrauterine system (Mirena) for heavy menstrual bleeding: systematic review and meta-analysis of data from individual patients. BMJ. 2010 Aug 16;341:c3929. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c3929.


Review Date: 7/25/2011
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine.
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