Dysmenorrhea refers to a menstrual flow that comes with pain, discomfort, and cramps.

Causes

Dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) does not always have an apparent reason why. Women usually have some discomfort before or during their periods, although often, it isn’t severe enough to interfere with their lives.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by another underlying disease, while primary dysmenorrhea is not.

One of those diseases could be Endometriosis which is a common condition, in which the type of cells that form the lining of the womb (endometrial cells) spread to nearby parts of the body.

Other causes of secondary dysmenorrhea are fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease.

The cause of dysmenorrhea depends on whether the disorder is primary or secondary.

In general, women with primary dysmenorrhea experience abnormal uterine contractions as a result of a chemical imbalance in the body (particularly prostaglandin and arachidonic acid – both chemicals control for contraction of the uterus).

Other clinical disorders cause secondary dysmenorrhoea. The most common is endometriosis (a condition in which tissue similar to that of the endometrium gets implanted outside the uterus, usually in other genital organs within the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity, often causing internal bleeding, infection, and pelvic pain).

Symptoms

The pain typically occurs during the period, but it can often happen in the preceding days.

Pain occurs in the lower abdomen. Other symptoms may include headaches, diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness. Symptoms may decrease in severity once a woman has had a child.

Severe dysmenorrhea should ger investigated by medical experts, mainly if there are other symptoms, since some of the causes, for example, pelvic inflammatory disease, can lead to complications such as infertility.

Dysmenorrhea can be classified as primary or secondary:

Primary dysmenorrhea – presented from the beginning and usually lasts a lifetime; Severe and frequent menstrual cramps caused by severe and abnormal uterine contractions.

Secondary dysmenorrhea – occurs due to some physical cause and is usually initiated later; Painful menstrual periods caused by other clinical pathology (e.g., pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis).

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) gets established according to the type.

In case there is no evidence of underlying disease, and the discomfort already appeared with the first menstruation the pain is diagnosed as primary menstrual pain (primary dysmenorrhoea) when there is none.

In an exhaustive consultation, the doctor asks the patient about the type and evolution of the pain to establish a diagnosis.

Also, a healthcare provider performs a gynecological examination of the vagina, uterus, and ovaries.

To better identify the cause of the discomfort, it is recommended to note in a menstrual calendar all the aches such as pains, or the intake of analgesic medicines before going to the doctor.

If there is suspicion of possible organic causes of menstrual pain, i.e., secondary dysmenorrhea, the doctor carries out other diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, ultrasounds and, if necessary, a laparoscopy with the help of an Endoscope.

By such means, for example, endometriosis can get excluded. Endometriosis affects approximately 10% of fertile women and is, in many cases, the real cause of menstrual cramps.

Treatments

Some women often take aspirin to deal with the pain during their period. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Not everybody can use aspirin since it can cause stomach bleeding in some people. Breastfeeding women should not take aspirin, neither should those under 16 years of age, or people suffering from various medical conditions.

Ibuprofen (Advil) is another NSAID, often used for period pain. It is somewhat less likely to cause stomach problems than aspirin, although they still may occur. Breastfeeding women should not take this medicine.

Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is another painkiller often used for period pain. It has little to no side effects when women take it as directed.

However, it is not quite as effective as the NSAID drugs for combating period pains.

The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill often helps with period pain. The pill usually gives lighter and less painful periods, and many women use it for this reason, even when they don’t need to for contraceptive purposes.

The pill increases the risk of thrombosis, so should not be used for those at high risks, such as smokers over the age of 35. On the other hand, the pill decreases the risk of some other serious diseases, such as ovarian cancer.

Magnesium supplements have been shown to help reduce period pain. People can find Magnesium in many foods, green vegetables, such as spinach. Such nourishment is an excellent source of magnesium, along with nuts, whole wheat flour, and brown rice.

Vitamin E supplements have also been shown to help reduce period pain. Good sources of vitamin E include sunflower oil, olive oil, corn oil, nuts, green vegetables, and wheat germ.

Heat treatments, such as a hot water bottle, are surprisingly effective in reducing period pain for many women. Therapies for secondary dysmenorrhea depend on the underlying disease.

Fibroids may need to be treated with drugs, or removed in operation. Surgery sometimes eliminates areas of endometriosis in severe cases.

The pelvic inflammatory disease can occur because of various bacteria, and it can get treated with antibiotics. If this disease is left untreated, infertility can result.

If there is no underlying disease other than menstrual cramps, some quick measures can help you find yourself well again to perform everyday tasks:

Physical exercises to relax the muscles and distend the pelvic region. In fact, with regular workout, the pelvis irrigates better, and cramps can decrease.

It helps to consume food rich in Vitamin B6. Also, some antispasmodic infusions with extracts of golden potentilla and St. John’s come quite in handy in cases of mood swings, irritability and restlessness.

Medical experts recommend nourishment rich in magnesium in case of abdominal cramps. Nuts, wheat germ, legumes and brown rice are high in magnesium.

Heat: hot baths, hot water bags on the gut, take a sauna. Well-being also depends on a healthy diet that prevents disease and pain.

For these reasons, it is essential to eat a balanced diet and rich in fiber.

People should reduce the consumption of stuff like caffeinated beverages such as coffee, black tea, or cola.