While any woman can develop dysmenorrhea, the following women may be at an increased risk for the condition:
- Women who smoke
- Women who drink alcohol during their period (alcohol tends to prolong menstrual pain)
- Women who are overweight
- Women who started their periods before the age of 11
- Women who have never been pregnant
How is dysmenorrhea diagnosed?
To diagnose dysmenorrhea, your healthcare provider will evaluate your medical history and do a complete physical and pelvic exam. Other tests may include:
- Ultrasound. This test uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test uses large magnets, radiofrequencies, 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 inserted into an incision in the abdominal wall. Using the laparoscope to see into the pelvic and abdomen area, the healthcare provider can often find abnormal growths.
- Hysteroscopy. This is the visual exam of the canal of the cervix and the inside of the uterus. It uses a viewing instrument (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina.
Treatment to manage dysmenorrhea symptoms may include:
- Prostaglandin inhibitors, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, or NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (to reduce pain)
- Oral contraceptives (ovulation inhibitors)
- Progesterone (hormone treatment)
- Diet changes (to increase protein and decrease sugar and caffeine intake)
- Vitamin supplements
- Regular exercise
- Heating pad across the belly
- Hot bath or shower
- Abdominal massage
- Endometrial ablation (a procedure to destroy the lining of the uterus)
- Endometrial resection (a procedure to remove the lining of the uterus).
- Hysterectomy ( the surgical removal of the uterus)
Key points about dysmenorrhea
- Dysmenorrhea is characterized by severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain during your period.
- Dysmenorrhea may be primary, existing from the beginning of periods, or secondary, due to an underlying condition.
- 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, surgery may be needed.
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