What Causes Vaginal Bleeding?
Vaginal bleeding is the most frequent symptom of cervical cancer, but it is also associated with several other diseases, including:
- Endometriosis: Abnormal uterine tissue implants growing outside the uterus, on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the outer uterine walls, or other abdominal organs.
- Uterine fibroids: Benign tissue masses growing in the uterus.
- Endometrial polyps: Benign tissue growths that are smaller than fibroids.
- Endometrial hyperplasia: Excessive proliferation of the uterine inner lining. This occurs more frequently among women over 40, and may be a precursor of endometrial cancer.
Women who use IUDs (intrauterine devices) as birth control may also experience episodes of unexplained vaginal bleeding.
Types of Vaginal Bleeding
Unusual episodes of bleeding from the vagina can be present in several different ways:
- Heavy menstrual periods: Heavy menstrual periods, also known as menorrhagia, involve blood loss so severe that it is difficult to maintain the activities of daily life. Often menorrhagia is associated with severe, incapacitating cramping. Patients may need to change sanitary protection multiple times during the course of a day. They may pass large blood clots with their menstrual flow. Often, patients will lose so much blood that they become anemic.
- Bleeding after sex: Bleeding after sex most often involves the cervix. The cervix is the name given to the narrow, pointed tip of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Excessive friction during intercourse can cause bleeding even when the cervix is healthy.
Bleeding after sex is one of the symptoms of cervical cancer. If a woman has received regular pap smears that show no abnormal cell growth, cervical cancer can be ruled out as a cause.
Bleeding after sexual intercourse can be a sign of cervicitis or it can be a sign of cervical dysplasia. Cervicitis refers to any inflammation of the cervix. It can be caused by trauma, as in overly vigorous intercourse, or by infection. Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause cervicitis. Cervical dysplasia is the appearance of abnormal cells on the cervix that can be cancer precursors.
- Bleeding after menopause: Any kind of vaginal bleeding among postmenopausal women has the potential to be serious. It could be a symptom of polyps, or endometrial atrophy, or hyperplasia. It could also be the result of hormone therapy. There is also the possibility, however, that it is due to endometrial cancer. Postmenopausal women who are experiencing vaginal bleeding are advised to consult their physician as soon as possible.