Dysmenorrhea: Types & Symptoms

by Prachee last updated -

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While it is easy to dismiss your period pains as a part of the deal, they could be a sign of conditions such as dysmenorrhea. The term ‘dysmenorrhea’ is the medical term for what is commonly known as ‘menstrual cramps’. It is a widely reported condition which could affect your routine activities.

What is Dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is a gynecological condition in which acute pain at the time of menstruation is felt. The prostaglandin hormone is considered to be a stimulant for dysmenorrhea. Leukotrienes have also been considered in increasing the pain sensation in the uterus. Vasopressin is another hormone that has a role to play in increasing the sensitivity in the myometrial region.

Dysmenorrhea is considered to be common among teenage girls and young women. According to a survey, conducted by Weissman, et al (2004), dysmenorrhea has been reported to affect 50- 72% of women in the age group of 14 to 25 years. Out of these, less than 10% report the problem and seek medical attention, while the rest go unreported. It is estimated that this is possibly one of the major causes for teenage girls and young women missing out on high school attendance and work days, respectively.

Types of Dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea is categorized into two types: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs almost regularly during the days of menstruation, whereas secondary dysmenorrhea occurs when there is pelvic pathology, ie., it is a sign of other underlying gynecological problems.

Primary Dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea occurs during the initial years of the menstrual cycle. It might subside in the later years, but it usually lasts all your life.

Secondary Dysmenorrhea

According to Deligeoroglou, in the article titled “Dysmenorrhea” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in 2000, the root causes for secondary dysmenorrhea include diseases or medical conditions pertaining to the uterus. Some of the causes include:

Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition where the cells present in the endometrium (uterus) are found on surrounding pelvic organs.

Adenomyosis: Adenomyosis is a condition where endometrial tissue, which provides the lining for the uterus, grows inside it. This condition is generally seen during later childbearing years or after having children.

Fibroids: Fibroids are benign tumors that form in the uterine walls and are possibly attached to it.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: This consists of an infection of the fallopian tubes which can spread to other organs such as the ovaries, uterus, or cervix.

Premenstrual Syndrome: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is an experience of discomfort occurring in women before their menstrual cycle begins. More than 200 symptoms have been associated with PMS but the few major symptoms that have been consistently reported include irritability, tension, stress, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and fatigue.

Cervical Stenosis or Occlusion: Cervical stenosis, a condition where the spinal canal is too small for the spinal cord and nerve roots which can damage both the spinal cord and the nerve roots.

Uterine Polyps: Uterine polyps are tissues growing inside of the uterus wall lining. These overgrown lesions can be as small as few millimeters to a few centimeters or inches across. This condition is seen more in women who are in their 40s or 50s and sometimes in young women as well.

Intrauterine Adhesions: Intrauterine adhesions form as a result of trauma in the intrauterine area. The joining of tissues in the uterine cavity is seen. These joinings can differ between individuals.

Congenital Malformations: Congenital malformations in the reproductive organs such as the uterus, vagina, and ovaries can cause dysmenorrhea.

Intrauterine Contraceptive Device: The use of an intrauterine contraceptive device has been known to cause dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrheal symptoms were found to be higher in women with intrauterine devices than in women without those devices.

Transverse Vaginal Septum: Transverse vaginal septum is a uterovaginal condition where the canal of the vagina is defective. The septa obstruct the opening of the vagina.

Pelvic Congestion Syndrome: Pelvic congestion syndrome is reported to be a common disease among many women. Women report pain in the lower abdominal region, which is caused by varicose veins where blood flows in the opposite direction, resulting in pain.

Allen-Masters Syndrome: Allen-Masters syndrome is a condition in which the tissue stabilizing and holding the uterus in place in the pelvis is damaged. While the upper part of the uterus is steady, the lower part does not stretch and can cause pain in the cervix.

Stress, anxiety, obesity, and alcohol consumption have also been observed as causes in some cases, but not on a general scale.

Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea

Symptoms of dysmenorrhea include acute pain and pressure being felt in the abdomen area. One can also experience cramps, spasmodic, labor-like pain in the lower abdomen and back. Any increase in breast sensitivity, bloating, or rashes on the skin are also observed in some cases, as well as edema, palpitations, tinnitus, light-headedness, pain in areas around the hips, lower back and inner thighs. When the pain is severe, symptoms can also include an upset stomach, vomiting, and loose stools.

You might want to convince yourself that cramps are synonymous with periods, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. If dysmenorrhea is interfering with your everyday tasks, stop ignoring it and see a doctor who will be able to help you with it.

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About the Author

Prachee is a content writer and her focus has been health, science, and technology. She prides herself on being able to seamlessly dabble from one subject to another. She also fancies herself a poet and a cook, when the rare lightning of inspiration strikes.

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