Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual pain. Lower-abdominal throbbing or cramping pains are known as menstrual cramps that disrupts everyday life.
Millions of women experience pain during their menstrual periods. The pain can be so severe that it disrupts everyday life in some cases. If you are one of these women, you may be wondering what could cause your pain.
There are many possible causes, and in this blog post, we will discuss a few of them. We will also provide information on how to get help if you are experiencing severe pain during your periods.
What is dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual pain. In addition, lower-abdominal throbbing or cramping pains are known as menstrual cramps.
Menstrual cramps are widespread and acute stomach pain in women before and during their menstrual cycles. However, the discomfort for some individuals is only annoying.
For others, menstrual cramps might be severe enough to cause significant disturbances in their lives for a few days every month.
What are the types of dysmenorrhea?
There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type of menstrual pain. It usually starts when a girl gets her first period (menarche). The pain is caused by contractions of the uterus, which is a muscle. The contractions squeeze the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the uterus, which causes pain.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is less common and is caused by another medical condition, such as endometriosis or fibroids.
What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea?
The main symptom of dysmenorrhea is pain in the lower abdomen. The pain can range from mild to severe. It might:
- Start a day or two before your period
- Peak on the first day of your period
- Pain that radiates to your lower back and thighs
- Last for one to three days
Other symptoms might include:
- Low back pain
- Slight rise in temperature
What are the causes of dysmenorrhea?
The cause of dysmenorrhea is not well understood. However, it is thought to be caused by the release of substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormones that cause the uterus to contract. The contractions squeeze the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the uterus. This lack of oxygen causes pain.
An imbalance of serotonin might cause primary dysmenorrhea. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate mood. An imbalance of serotonin has been linked to pain perception.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by another medical condition, such as endometriosis or fibroids.
- Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. This can cause pain during your menstrual cycle.
- Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterus. They can cause pain and heavy bleeding.
Other causes of secondary dysmenorrhea include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): It is an infection of the reproductive organs. It is a common cause of secondary dysmenorrhea. Several different bacteria can cause PID.
- Ovarian cysts: Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries. They are common and usually cause no symptoms. However, they can sometimes cause pain during your menstrual cycle.
- Cervical stenosis: It is a narrowing of the cervix. This can cause pain during your menstrual cycle.
- Adenomyosis: It is a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus. This can cause pain and heavy bleeding during your menstrual cycle.
- Intrauterine device (IUD): An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. IUDs are a type of birth control. They can sometimes cause pain during your menstrual cycle.
What are the risk factors for dysmenorrhea?
There are several risk factors for dysmenorrhea, including:
- Age: Dysmenorrhea is most common in women between the ages of 18 and 24.
- Family history: If your mother or sisters have dysmenorrhea, you are more likely to have it.
- Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of dysmenorrhea.
What are the complications of dysmenorrhea?
There are, however, certain circumstances that menstrual cramps can bring about. Endometriosis, for example, may lead to fertility issues. In addition, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause scarring in the fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Dysmenorrhea can sometimes lead to other problems, such as:
- Missed days of work or school
- Absenteeism from social activities
- Interference with daily activities
- Sleep problems
How is dysmenorrhea diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms. They will also do a physical exam. This might include a pelvic exam. A pelvic examination is a routine part of your annual checkup that can help detect any abnormalities in your reproductive system, and signs of infection.
Your doctor might also order tests, such as:
Blood tests: Blood tests can check for anemia, which can be a complication of dysmenorrhea.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the inside of your body. It can be used to check for conditions that might be causing your pain, such as endometriosis or fibroids.
Laparoscopy: A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure used to look inside your abdomen. A small incision is made in your abdomen, and a thin, lighted tube is inserted. This allows your doctor to see inside your abdomen and look for conditions that might be causing your pain.
What are the treatments for dysmenorrhea?
The treatment for dysmenorrhea depends on the underlying cause. If your pain is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as endometriosis or fibroids, treatment will focus on that condition.
There are also several things you can do to help relieve the pain of dysmenorrhea:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), can help relieve the pain of dysmenorrhea.
- Hormonal birth control: Birth control pills, patches, or vaginal rings can help to regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce pain.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove fibroids or endometriosis.
- Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese practice involves the placement of thin needles into the skin at specific points. Some studies have shown that acupuncture can help to relieve pain.
- Massage: Massaging the abdomen can help to relieve pain.
- Heat: Applying heat to your abdomen can help relieve cramping.
- Exercise: Exercise can help reduce stress and relieve cramping.
- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can help to reduce stress and pain.
Are there any home remedies for painful menstrual periods that you can try yourself?
There are a few things you can do at home to ease the pain of your menstrual periods.
- Take a hot bath.
- Using a heating pad on your stomach or lower back can help.
- Drinking lots of fluids, especially water, will help to keep your body hydrated and may also help to reduce cramping.
- Eating a nutritious and delicious diet.
- Take vitamins and supplements.
- Getting regular exercise can also help to reduce the pain of your periods.
- If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the pain.
- Some women find that eating certain foods helps ease their pain, while others find that avoiding certain foods helps. Common trigger foods include caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and salt.
Experiment to see what works for you. If home remedies don’t work or your pain is severe, you should see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
When should you see a doctor about your painful menstrual periods?
If your periods are painful and you’re not sure what could be the cause, it’s best to see a doctor. There are many potential causes of painful periods, and a doctor can help you figure out what might be causing your pain.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when considering whether or not to see a doctor about your pain.
- How severe is the pain? If you’re in so much pain that you can’t function normally or miss work or school, it’s worth seeing a doctor.
- How long have you been experiencing pain? If you’ve only recently started having pain, it might not be as severe as if you’ve been dealing with pain for years.
- What other symptoms do you have? If you’re also experiencing fatigue, nausea, or other troubling symptoms, it’s worth seeing a doctor to rule out any potential underlying causes.
If you’re unsure whether or not to see a doctor, err on the side of caution and make an appointment.
Better safe than sorry!