Health Information

Dysmenorrhea

What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is a menstrual condition characterized by severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain associated with menstruation. Dysmenorrhea may be classified as primary or secondary.
  • primary dysmenorrhea - from the beginning and usually lifelong; severe and frequent menstrual cramping caused by severe and abnormal uterine contractions.
  • secondary dysmenorrhea - due to some physical cause and usually of later onset; painful menstrual periods caused by an another medical condition present in the body (i.e., pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis).

What causes dysmenorrhea?

The cause of dysmenorrhea depends on whether the condition is primary or secondary. In general, women with primary dysmenorrhea experience abnormal uterine contractions as a result of a chemical imbalance in the body (particularly prostaglandin and arachidonic acid - both chemicals which control the contractions of the uterus). Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by other medical conditions, most often endometriosis (a condition in which tissue that looks and acts like endometrial tissue becomes implanted outside the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity - often resulting in internal bleeding, infection, and pelvic pain). Other possible causes of secondary dysmenorrhea include the following:
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • uterine fibroids
  • abnormal pregnancy (i.e., miscarriage, ectopic)
  • infection, tumors, or polyps in the pelvic cavity

Treatment for dysmenorrhea:

Specific treatment for dysmenorrhea will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • cause of the condition (primary or secondary)
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference