Dysmenorrhea is a medical term used for indicating the painful menstrual periods caused by uterine contractions. The person suffering from dysmenorrhea feels pain in the pelvis, abdomen, abdominal cramps, back and legs, headache, or fatigue. The pain sometimes becomes so severe that it can be difficult for the person to do her routine activities. The Dysmenorrhoea is of two types:
- Primary: It normally affects women because of uterine muscle contractions and refers to recurrent pain.
- Secondary: It may arise because of some underlying conditions such as endometriosis, Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), cervical stenosis, Fibroids and reproductive system disorders.
What do you mean by menstrual cramps?
Primary dysmenorrhea is the common menstrual cramps that come back repeatedly (recurrent). Pain is normally felt for one or two days before getting the period or when the bleeding starts. Here, the pain varies from mild to severe involving the lower abdomen, back, or thighs. The symptoms that arise during primary dysmenorrhea are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea.
In the case of secondary dysmenorrhea, there will be painful periods because of a disorder or an infection in the female reproductive organs. The pain during secondary dysmenorrhea usually starts before the menstrual cycle and carries on longer than the common menstrual cramps. The symptoms involving secondary dysmenorrhea include- menorrhagia, infertility, intermenstrual bleeding, dyspareunia, and postcoital bleeding. The general symptoms are:
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Diarrhea & Headache
- Cramps along with heavy menstrual bleeding
- Vaginal discharge and bleeding
- Severe or unusual cramps for 2 or more days
- Signs infection such as fever or chills
Causes of Dysmenorrhea
- Primary dysmenorrhea: High-level of hormone called prostaglandins.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea arises because of following health issue such as:
- Intrauterine device (IUDs)
- Infection in the female reproductive organ that is pelvic inflammatory disease
- Noncancerous uterus growths—uterine fibroids and tumors
- Ovarian cysts
- Scars from previous surgery
- Inflammatory bowel disease
The doctor will review the patient’s medical history and perform a physical exam, including the pelvic exam. At the time of pelvic exam, the doctor will check for the abnormalities in reproductive organs and look into the infection. If the doctor feels that, there is a disorder is causing the menstrual cramps, he/she may recommend other tests, such as:
- Ultrasound: In this test, the sound waves are used to create an image of the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, and ovaries.
- Other imaging tests: A CT scan or MRI brings better imaging results than ultrasound and can help the doctor in diagnosing the underlying conditions. CT scan combines X-ray images in different angles to produce cross-sectional images of the bones, organs, and other soft tissues inside the body.
- MRI: It uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field. Here, it produces detailed images of internal structures.
To ease out menstrual cramps, the doctor might prescribe:
- Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium at regular intervals starting from the day the person expects the period to help in controlling the pain associated cramps. There are also non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs available.
- Hormonal birth control: Oral birth control pills have hormones that can stop ovulation and will reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. These hormones can be delivered in different forms: an injection, an implant placed under the skin of the arm, a skin patch, a flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina, or an intrauterine device (IUD).
- Surgery: If the menstrual cramps arise due to any disorder such as endometriosis or fibroids, surgery would be an option to eradicate the symptoms. The surgical removal of the uterus is also an option if all other non-surgical approaches fail to ease the symptoms.
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