What is dysmenorrhea?
More than half of menstruating women experience mild pain one or two days a month. This pain usually comes from the uterus, which is a muscle that can expand and contract. During some menstrual periods, the uterus contracts more strongly than usual, and this can cause a cramping pain. When the pain is severe enough to interfere with normal activity, it is called dysmenorrhea. In most cases, dysmenorrhea can be successfully treated with medications.
Symptoms of dysmenorrhea can include:
- cramps or pain in the lower back or abdomen
- a pulling sensation in the inner thighs
Dysmenorrhea may simply be related to strong uterine contractions during menstruation, or it may a sign of an underlying disorder such as fibroids (benign tumors that form in or around the uterus) or endometriosis (when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus).
How is dysmenorrhea diagnosed?
To determine the cause of dysmenorrhea, Dr. Sargent may conduct or request one or more of the following:
- a review of your medical history, including your symptoms and menstrual cycles
- cervical cultures
- a pelvic examination
- an ultrasound examination
- a diagnostic laparoscopy (a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a fiber-optic instrument is inserted through the abdominal wall to view the organs or to permit a surgical procedure)
How is dysmenorrhea treated?
Depending on the cause of dysmenorrhea, treatment can include one or more of the following:
- hormonal contraception
- medication, such as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
- the application of heat
- minimally invasive surgery to remove fibroids, abnormal tissue growth, or the entire uterus (hysterectomy)