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Understanding Primary and Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Updated: May 30, 2022

Every month a number of women suffer from severe period pain that affects their day-to-day life. These women endure physical complications such as nausea, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, indigestion, tiredness and more. Their emotional and psychological well-being are also impacted by this repetitive experience.

In Greek, dysmenorrhea means “painful monthly bleeding.”

Studies indicate that most women suffer from dysmenorrhea, in terms of experiencing some type of period pain. However, a much smaller percentage of adult females are reported as suffering from severe period pain that disrupts their everyday tasks. This kind of pain is referred to as primary or secondary dysmenorrhea.

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Primary dysmenorrhea is the cramping pain that comes before or during a period.”

Primary dysmenorrhea is mostly caused by high levels of prostaglandins. The amount of prostaglandins in the body control the intensity of the cramps, and on the first day of a woman’s menstrual cycle, prostaglandin levels are high.

Irritability, headache, and low back pain are some common symptoms specifically found in primary dysmenorrhea.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by an underlying issue found inside or outside of the uterus. Endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis and pelvic inflammatory disease are some of the common reasons a woman may have secondary dysmenorrhea.

Some symptoms that can point to secondary dysmenorrhea instead of primary dysmenorrhea are: heavy bleeding, intermenstrual bleeding (bleeding during your menstrual cycle, but not on your actual period), pain while having sex, postcoital bleeding and infertility.

The treatment and diagnosis process differ depending on the type of dysmenorrhea you have. Primary dysmenorrhea is revealed through a physical examination and information about the patient's history with the pain. Secondary dysmenorrhea varies greatly depending on the disorder, disease or abnormality.

Treatment for primary dysmenorrhea includes the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or birth control pills, while secondary dysmenorrhea treatment again varies depending on the disorder, disease or abnormality.

Other ways to help manage the pain include a diet that is balanced and has plenty of vitamins and minerals, warm baths, and heating pads or hot water bottles. People also use food supplements and alternative medicine.

There is still much to discover about dysmenorrhea. More research in the medical field is needed to determine just how many women are being affected by this, and if there is any better treatment than what we already have.

Dysmenorrhea is a very painful experience that takes a toll on both the body and the mind. If this is something you suffer from, you are not alone.

Disclaimer: Amber’s Care should not replace medical advice. If you have questions about the following statements, please consult a doctor.

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