viagra A drug used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) relieves menstrual cramps, according to a new study published in the medical journal Human Reproduction, without causing side effects. Many women suffer disruptive symptoms such as diarrhea, dizziness, nausea and vomiting each month as part of their monthly period. This condition, known as primary dysmenorrhea or PD, is the leading cause of pelvic pain in women. Now scientists think the drug sildenafil citrate, sold under the brand name of Viagra, can reduce the symptoms of PD in women.

Menstrual pain is the result of contractions of the uterus, which is a muscle. The uterus contracts throughout the menstrual cycle but especially during menstruation. Strong contractions can press the uterus against nearby blood vessels and cut off the flow of oxygen-rich blood, when then causes pain.

Doctors most commonly recommend anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to treat PD but this treatment does not work for all women. Furthermore, chronic use of these drugs can cause ulcers, kidney damage, and other side effects.

Sildenafil relaxes the uterine tissue, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow freely through the uterus. Sildenafil citrate, when taken by mouth, improves the symptoms of PD but long-term oral use tends to cause headaches. In this newest study, scientists from Penn State College of Medicines wanted to find out if vaginal application of erectile dysfunction drugs would improve PD symptoms without causing headache or other side effects.

The team of scientists randomly assigned 25 women to one of two groups: one taking sildenafil and the other group using a placebo. During the four-hour period after administration, the women rated their pain. At two hours post-administration, women who used a vaginal preparation of sildenafil reported better pain relief than did the women who received a placebo. The women who used sildenafil did not report any side effects such as headache.

The authors of the study cite loss of funding as the reason for a small study group. The scientists suggest repeating the work on a larger group to verify results.

Source: Dmitrovic, Richard. "Sildenafil Citrate in the Treatment of Pain in Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Human Reproduction. N.p., 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 21 Dec. 2013.