Sharp abdominal pain. Diarrhea. Back pain. Feeling feverish.
These are just a few symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea, one of the most common problems afflicting women in their reproductive years.
What is dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual cramps. It may be classified into:
1. Primary, meaning the pain is not associated with any pelvic condition.
2. Secondary, which results from an anatomic abnormality like a myoma, an ovarian cyst or other growths in the genital tract.
Primary dysmenorrhea commonly affects almost 50% of women just after the onset of their first period. The secondary type is observed more in women aged 30-45 years.
What makes you prone to cramps?
The following have been observed as risk factors to having dysmenorrhea:
1. Early onset of menstruation ( the average age of onset is 12 years old)
2. Prolonged menstrual periods lasting beyond 5-7 days
3. Heavy menstrual flow consuming more than 3-5 pads a day
5. A family member who also had dysmenorrhea
Several studies attribute the cause of dysmenorrhea to the presence of prostaglandin, which is a strong muscle stimulant and vasoconstrictor (a substance that narrows blood vessels and increases blood pressure). Its action causes prolonged and painful contraction of the uterus and decreased blood flow to the pelvic tissues.
Other effects of prostaglandin are: inflammation in joints and injured tissues, the onset of fever, sensitizing the spinal nerves to pain and causing muscles in the large intestines to contract.
All these explain why you may experience feeling feverish, diarrhea and back pain during your period.
How to treat dysmenorrhea
There are several medical and natural ways to treat these recurring monthly cramps. All may relieve the congestion and decrease the symptoms at the pelvic area.
1. Pain relievers in the form of paracetamol, ibuprofen and mefenamic acid
2. Stronger drugs like tramadol or etoricoxib if common pain relievers don’t work
1. Increased fluid intake
2. Mild physical activity like walking, stretching and yoga
3. Heating pads
4. Warming oils
5. Sexual activity
New study: mega-doses of vitamin D?
One of the latest recommendations to treat dysmenorrhea was published last March 3, 2012 in the OBG Management Journal. It is the first of its kind to investigate the benefits of giving high-dose Vitamin D to reduce the pelvic pain.
The subjects were given 300,000 IU of Vitamin D five days before their scheduled monthly period. The study revealed that women on Vitamin D had significantly reduced pain compared to the placebo group.
Furthermore, none of the subjects required pain medications versus 40% of the women in the placebo group that had to take pain relievers for their dysmenorrhea.
Many of our vitamin supplements contain an average of 2,000-4,000 IU of Vitamin D. There are injectable preparations of Vitamin D with 300,000 IU. Of course, the cheapest source of Vitamin D is still the sun.
If this study proves to be true, I wonder how long one has to stand under the sun to absorb 300,000 IU of Vitamin D?
Do you have a medical question for the Blogging Doc? Drop her a line at www.filipinamd.com.
Dr. Diana Sarmiento is a mother of three, part-time doctor, and a full-time wife and mother. The topics closest to her heart are women’s health, parenting, and any new information that she can get her hands on.