Pediatric Dysmenorrhea (Severe Menstrual Cramps)

Pediatric Dysmenorrhea (Severe Menstrual Cramps)

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Summary

Dysmenorrhea is a painful menstrual condition that usually includes severe cramps. This condition can be caused by severe contractions of the uterus during menstruation or by an underlying condition.

Expanded Overview

Cramping during your period can be caused by severe contractions of the uterus during menstruation or by an underlying condition. Because painful periods can resemble other conditions, it is important to be seen by a doctor.

Types

  • Primary dysmenorrhea - the most common form, presents as painful cramping in the lower abdomen starting one or two days before a period and lasting two to four days.
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea - presents as painful cramps that occur as a result of a medical condition, like endometriosis, or abnormal shape of the uterus.

Causes

Painful periods may be caused by:

  • Endometriosis – a condition in which uterine tissue grows elsewhere in the body
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – an infection of the reproductive organs.
  • Uterine fibroids, adenomyosis or polyps – non-cancerous growths in the uterus – may cause painful periods, heavy bleeding, or bleeding between periods. This category is much more common in adult women and rarely seen in adolescence.

Symptoms

Your daughter’s dysmenorrhea symptoms may include:

  • Cramping in the lower abdomen/pelvic area
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Low back pain
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the lower abdomen/pelvic area
  • Pain radiating down the legs
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting

The pain may be so severe it causes your daughter to miss school or other activities.

Tests and Diagnosis

If your daughter has painful periods, her doctor will first take a medical history and conduct a physical exam. The doctor may ask your daughter to keep a record of her pain – when and where it occurs, how long it lasts, and how it’s relieved.

Additional tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment for dysmenorrhea depends on your daughter’s age and overall health. For painful periods, treatment can include:

  • Exercise
  • Fish oil
  • Hormonal medications which can help regulate periods and reduce pain
  • Heating pad or warm baths
  • Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications for cramps such as ibuprofen and naproxen

In the rare instance that the pain is caused by an abnormally shaped uterus, surgical treatment may be recommended.

Resources

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