Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) are used to describe pain over the lower abdomen during menstrual period. It is a common condition affecting most women. This symptom varied in severity. It can be just a mild discomfort or an excruciating experience. The debilitating effect of this menstrual cramps results in absenteeism and loss of productivity.
Menstrual cramps can be broadly classified into primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. This allows differentiation between a ‘physiological cause’ from one that needs further investigations.
Primary dysmenorrhea results from the uterus (womb) trying to expel the menstrual blood. This symptom is common among women who has not conceived before. The strong uterine contractions resulted in release of pain substance. The pain is felt during the day of heaviest flow, usually on second day of menses. This symptom is observed to improve following childbirth.
Secondary dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual cramps that occur before and may last until after menses. It usually indicates the presence of underlying pelvic disease that needs further investigations.
This above differentiation generally allows doctors to make clinical decision whether to proceed with other investigations. However, there are certain exceptions which your doctor may want to exclude pelvic diseases even though the symptom is mild or of primary dysmenorrhea. Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor.
Among the common causes are endometriosis, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, adenomyosis and uterine fibroid. The pelvic ultrasound scan and laparoscopy are useful tools to investigate this condition.
Doctors often use painkiller and advise hot compress to relieve the painful symptom. The definitive treatment will depends on cause of dysmenorrhea.
(See also Endometriosis) Link below: