Menstruation often causes uncomfortable side effects such as menstrual cramps, bloating, headaches, and fatigue that can make a woman feel miserable. It is common for her to have mild cramps during her periods because of uterine contractions. However, are the cramps severe and causing hindrances to her daily activities?
Does she not find any relief with painkillers and over the counter medications? If yes, then don’t ignore it. There may be other reasons for the pain. However, how does one know if it is a cause for concern? Read on to learn more about painful periods and what should be done if one has them.
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for the severe and frequent menstrual cramps, and pain associated with menstruation.
As the uterus contracts more strongly during menstruation, it presses against the nearby blood vessels and cuts off the supply of oxygen to the uterine muscle tissue. Brief loss of oxygen to the muscle results in pain.
It is classified into primary and secondary dysmenorrhea based on the time of onset and underlying cause.
A woman is probably suffering from primary dysmenorrhea, if she has been experiencing menstrual cramps from the time she first got her periods.
This usually persists for life, and is seen to be as result of severe and abnormal uterine contractions caused by chemical imbalances in the body (especially prostaglandin and arachidonic acid that control the contractions of the uterus).
Dysmenorrhea that is seen to develop in later life is termed as secondary dysmenorrhea and is seen to be usually caused by the presence of an underlying disease condition.
Few of the medical conditions that can cause secondary dysmenorrhea are:
Menstrual cramps are seen to affect over 50% of women with about 15% of them experiencing severe cramps. It is more common in adolescent girls affecting upto 90% of them.
A woman is at increased risk of suffering from painful menstrual cramps if she has started menstruating before the age of 11, her age is below 20 years, she has heavy bleeding during her periods, is overweight, or has never delivered a baby.
While any particular underlying reason is not clear period pain is seen to be prolonged in females who smoke, drink alcohol, or suffer from depression.
A woman suffering from dysmenorrhea may experience the following symptoms:
The pain may begin 1 to 3 days before or during the menstrual period with a peak at 24 hours and will later subside after 2 to 3 days.
Evaluation at the doctor’s clinic will cover a detailed history, complete physical examination including pelvic examination.
A diagnosis of dysmenorrhea shall be arrived at after ruling out other menstrual disorders such as fibroids, endometriosis, uterine polyps, medical conditions, or medications causing or aggravating the condition.
Diagnostic procedures such as;
All these tests are performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Few measures that can help in managing dysmenorrhea are regular exercise, increased protein intake, cutting down on sugar and caffeine, taking a hot water bath or shower, using a heating pad across the abdomen, or getting an abdominal massage done.
Eating healthy foods, drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of rest is necessary during the menstrual cycle.
Over the counter medications called as anti-prostaglandins (slow down prostaglandin production) may help in relieving the pain and discomfort, making the flow lighter, and causing the uterus to cramp less.
Medicines containing ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen sodium that are anti-inflammatory agents and also reduce pain can help. These medicines need to be taken with food when you first start feeling the symptoms for maximum benefit.
Oral contraceptive pills are another treatment option as they prevent ovulation and reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
Other treatment options include vitamin supplements of vitamin B1 or vitamin E, magnesium supplements, fish oils, or acupuncture.
All these are the procedures opted to manage the pain and to obtain menstrual pain relief.
Surgical intervention is done if the menstrual cramps is followed by menstrual pain which are being caused by endometriosis or fibroids in which the abnormal tissue needs to be removed to reduce symptoms.