Dysmenorrhea

Painful periods are menstrual
periods with severe and frequent cramps and pain. They may start with your first period
and continue through your life. Or they may happen later in life. This is often because
of a endometriosis.

A painful period is often caused
when the uterus contracts abnormally. This is because of a chemical problem in the body.
For example, the natural chemical prostaglandin controls the contractions of the
uterus.

When an underlying condition causes
painful periods, it’s often endometriosis. This is a condition where tissue from the
lining of the uterus shows up outside the uterus. Endometriosis often causes internal
bleeding, infection, and pelvic pain.

Other causes of painful periods
include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Abnormal pregnancy such as a
    miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
  • Infection, tumors, or polyps in the
    pelvic cavity

Any woman can have painful periods.
But these women may be at an increased risk for the condition:

  • Women who smoke
  • Women who drink alcohol during their
    period. Alcohol tends to make menstrual pain continue.
  • Women who are overweight
  • Women who started their periods before
    age 11
  • Women who have never been
    pregnant

These are the most common symptoms
of painful periods. But each woman may have slightly different symptoms. Symptoms may
include:

  • Cramping in the lower belly
  • Pain in the lower belly
  • Low back pain
  • Pain spreading down the legs
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Headaches

The symptoms of a painful period
may look like other health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a
diagnosis.

To diagnose painful periods, your
healthcare provider will ask about your health history. He or she will do a physical and
pelvic exam. Other tests may include:

  • Ultrasound. This test uses
    high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.
  • MRI. This test uses large magnets,
    radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within
    the body.
  • Laparoscopy. This minor procedure
    uses a laparoscope. This is a thin tube with a lens and a light. It is put into a cut
    (incision) in the belly (abdominal) wall. The healthcare provider uses this tool to
    see into the pelvic and abdomen area. He or she may find abnormal growths.
  • Hysteroscopy. This test looks at the
    canal of the cervix and the inside of the uterus. It uses a viewing tool
    (hysteroscope) put through the vagina.

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment to manage symptoms may
include:

  • Prostaglandin inhibitors. These
    include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and
    ibuprofen. These medicines reduce pain.
  • Acetaminophen
  • Birth control pills (ovulation
    inhibitors)
  • Hormone treatment (progesterone)
  • Diet changes. These changes include
    eating more protein and less sugar and caffeine.
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Regular exercise
  • Heating pad across the belly
  • Hot bath or shower
  • Belly massage
  • Endometrial ablation. This is a
    procedure to destroy the lining of the uterus.
  • Endometrial resection. This is
    a procedure to remove the lining of the uterus.
  • Hysterectomy. This is the surgical
    removal of the uterus.
  • Painful periods are periods with
    severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain.
  • The condition may start with your
    first period and continue throughout your life. Or it may begin later in life because
    of an underlying condition such as endometriosis.
  • Symptoms may include cramping or pain
    in the lower abdomen, low back pain, pain spreading down the legs, nausea, vomiting,
    diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, fainting, or headaches.
  • Treatments may include NSAIDS,
    acetaminophen, birth control pills, hormone treatment, dietary changes, vitamins,
    exercise, heat, or massage.
  • In extreme conditions, you may need
    surgery.

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare
provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and
    what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down
    questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask
    questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a
    new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
    instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment
    is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated
    in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is
    recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take
    the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment,
    write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider
    if you have questions.