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What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is defined as a medical condition that involves pain or discomfort during menstruation, often simply referred to as menstrual pain. This condition can cause sharp, dull, burning, shooting, nauseating pain or other types of general discomfort. While it is a generally normal condition, symptoms can sometimes be excruciating. Sometimes, the side-effects of dysmenorrhea can be augmented by an underlying condition that further irritates the natural process. By being aware of the process and how it affects your body, you can be better equipped to deal with the recurring circumstances of the situation. Dysmenorrhea can be a symptom of a more serious condition. If you have severe dysmenorrhea and have problems trying to get prehgnant, the dysmenorrhea could be a sign of an underlying problem like endometriosis or, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or myomas (fibroids).

Causes of dysmenorrhea

For most women the natural cause of dysmenorrhea is the monthly menstruation cycle. Typically, the symptoms of dysmenorrhea occur on a monthly basis and precede the beginning of menstruation and end when menstruation begins to taper off. There are two forms of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is the usual procession of menstrual cramps brought on by menstruation, while secondary dysmenorrhea is a more extreme form of pain typically exacerbated by an underlying issue in the reproductive system. Secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or tumors on the inner wall of the uterus.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

PMS is a common condition that’s caused by hormonal changes in the body occurring 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation begins. Symptoms typically go away after bleeding begins.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a painful medical condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus grow in other parts of the body, usually on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or tissue lining the pelvis.

Fibroids in the uterus

Fibroids are also known as myomas and are noncancerous tumors that can put pressure on the uterus or cause abnormal menstruation and pain, though they often don’t cause symptoms.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria that cause inflammation of the reproductive organs and pain.

Adenomyosis

Adenomyosis is a rare condition in which the uterine lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus, causing inflammation, pressure, and pain. It can also cause longer or heavier periods.

Cervical stenosis

Cervical stenosis is a rare condition in which the cervix is so small or narrow that it slows menstrual flow, causing an increase of pressure inside the uterus that causes pain.

Diagnosis of dysmenorrhea

Since primary dysmenorrhea is a natural occurrence, a diagnosis for it is not conducted. A diagnosis of secondary dysmenorrhea can be obtained by visiting a physician and going over the symptoms you are currently experiencing. If your cramps last longer than three days, this is a major sign that you may have secondary dysmenorrhea and will need to be investigated. A physician will discuss your symptoms with you and perform a pelvic exam to inspect your vagina, cervix, and uterus. The physician will inspect for any lumps and may require a sample of vaginal fluid. Further tests may be required to accurately determine whether or not you have secondary dysmenorrhea.

Treatment of dysmenorrhea

While the symptoms of dysmenorrhea can be curbed, the occurrence of it can only be prevented through menopause or a hysterectomy. Treating the side-effects of dysmenorrhea, however, can be achieved fairly easily. Taking a pain reliever that contains acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help to significantly reduce the amount of discomfort that is associated with the recurrence. Other methods include placing a hot pad on your abdomen or lower back, rest when appropriate and avoid foods and items that contain caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. Massaging the lower back and abdomen can also help relieve cramps and pains.  Recently, a study has shown that taking Ginger may relieve the pain of menstrual cramps.

Prognosis of dysmenorrhea

Since dysmenorrhea is a natural and normal occurrence, very few instances of serious complications result from it. The entire cycle can last anywhere from 3-7 days depending on whether you suffer from primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. Individuals who have secondary dysmenorrhea should be evaluated for the underlying condition that exacerbates their normal dysmenorrhea to see if any complications or dangerous health issues may result from it. Always express your concerns with a physician if you feel that your pain is exaggerated or prolonged as this may indicate an underlying issue that can be treated through use of medication or therapy.