Female Topics

Dysmenorrhea: What are its Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment?

By S.I. (staff writer) , published on May 29, 2023

Medicine Telehealth Health Periods bleeding cramps

What is Dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is a medical condition characterized by menstrual cramps and pain during the menstrual cycle. It is a common and often debilitating condition and the pain can range from mild to severe.


Its Symptoms may include cramping, sharp pain in the lower abdomen, backache, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment options are pain medications, lifestyle changes, and other therapies.


Dysmenorrhea can be divided into two broad categories:

  • Primary dysmenorrhea: It is more common and is caused by contractions of the uterus during menstruation [1].
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea: it is caused by various medical conditions and can be more severe. These conditions include endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, and adenomyosis.



What are the Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea?

Common symptoms of dysmenorrhea include:

  • Cramping
  • throbbing pain in the lower abdomen
  • back pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dizziness.


Other symptoms may include sweating, abdominal pressure, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating. In some cases, dysmenorrhea may also cause emotional symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. Dysmenorrhea in almost 10% of adolescents reflects pelvic abnormalities and endometriosis [2].



What are the Causes of Dysmenorrhea?

The cause of primary dysmenorrhea is unknown [3]. Since it is a disorder associated with other gynecological disorders [4], diagnosis can still be made on the following basis:


  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus. This can lead to pain and cramps during menstruation.


  • Uterine Fibroids: Uterine fibroids/leiomyomas are noncancerous masses that can form in the uterus. They are often associated with pelvic pain and cramping during menstruation.


  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): PID is an infection of the reproductive organs caused by bacteria. It can cause severe pain during periods.


  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Irregular menstrual cycles can cause the uterus to contract more than usual, leading to painful cramps.


  • Stress: Stress can cause the body to release hormones, such as cortisol, which can lead to painful menstrual cramps.


  • Hormonal Imbalances: Imbalances in hormones, such as testosterone, can cause the uterus to contract more than usual and cause painful cramps.




Treatment Options for Dysmenorrhea:

Treatment options include lifestyle modifications, medications, and alternative therapies.


Lifestyle modifications: may involve exercise, relaxation techniques, and dietary changes.


Medications: like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), hormonal contraceptives, and other pain relievers can also reduce pain and discomfort [5].


Alternative therapies: such as acupuncture, yoga, and massage may also be beneficial in relieving symptoms.


It is important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment option for you.






1- What we know about primary dysmenorrhea today: a critical review | Human Reproduction Update | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

2- Dysmenorrhea in Adolescents - Harel - 2008 - Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences - Wiley Online Library

3- What we know about primary dysmenorrhea today: a critical review - PubMed (nih.gov)

4- Dysmenorrhea and related disorders - PMC (nih.gov)

5- Dysmenorrhea | AAFP

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