What is it?
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for pain with menstruation AKA painful periods. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary. Childbearing is said to relieve dysmenorrhea, but this does not always occur. There is no significant difference in prevalence or incidence between races.
The cause of common menstrual cramps: Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus (which is a muscle) by a chemical called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are number of hormone-like substances that participate in a wide range of body functions such as the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels, control of blood pressure and modulation of inflammation. Prostaglandins are derived from a chemical called arachidonic acid. The uterus contracts throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. During menstruation the uterus contracts more strongly. If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to uterine muscle. Pain results when part of the muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen.
Primary dysmenorrhea is common menstrual cramps that are recurrent and are not due to other diseases. Cramps usually begin one to two days after a woman starts her period. Pain usually begins one or two days before menstrual bleeding begins and is felt in the lower abdomen, low back and / or thighs ranging from mild to severe. Pain can typically last up to three days and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue and even diarrhea.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain that is caused by a disorder in the woman’s reproductive organs, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids or infection. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually begins earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps. The pain is not typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue or diarrhea.
Severe dysmenorrhea: Many women experience discomfort at the time of their periods. For most, this does not interfere with their daily lives or requires any special attention. However, for some women their monthly period is very painful, problematic and in some cases disabling. It can interfere with their lives because of the level pain, fatigue and inconvenience caused. In some cases the pain may be a symptom of endometriosis which if left untreated may impact fertility. Dysmenorrhea, especially when it is severe, is associated with a restriction of activity and absence from school, work and social interaction.
Severe dysmenorrhea symptoms:
- Aching pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- Feeling of pressure in the abdomen
- Pain in the hips, thighs and low back
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Hypersensitivity to sounds, smells or light
- Fatigue and exhaustion