Menstrual cycles are typically 25 to 36 days in length with three to seven days of bleeding. The regulation of the menstrual cycle is directly due to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. From time to time, women suffer from temporary conditions that may cause a shift in these hormones, which causes the period to last a little longer than usual. In addition, there are some long-term medical conditions that cause prolonged bleeding.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition caused by an overproduction of luteinizing hormone. During a normal menstrual cycle, luteinizing hormone is released, which in turn signals to the ovaries to produce estrogen, progesterone and androgens. The pituitary gland in women with PCOS releases too much of the luteinizing hormone, which causes an imbalance in the amount of estrogen released. This makes androgens–male hormones–more dominant. The over-abundance of androgens causes facial hair, weight gain and pattern hair loss. Women with PCOS also have ovaries that are polycystic, meaning they contain many cysts. Every month in a normal cycle, the estrogen released by the ovary produces an egg within a small sack called a cyst. Once the egg has matured, a surge of estrogen is released, causing the cyst to rupture. Since there is not enough estrogen being produced to mature the egg in a woman with PCOS, the cyst doesn’t rupture and the egg never reaches maturity, causing the cyst to remain intact. This often leads to irregular, heavy, scanty or prolonged menstrual cycles and infertility due to lack of ovulation.