Doctor's Notes on Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual cramps are sharp, throbbing, or cramping pains that occur in a woman's lower abdomen caused by uterine contractions that start when the menstrual period begins and may continue for 2-3 days or longer. The uterine contractions are related to the levels of prostglandins that rise and fall during the menstrual cycle. More than half of all women experience some discomfort during their menstrual periods, but only a small percentage are disabled by the menstrual cramps symptoms.
Symptoms of menstrual cramps can range from mildly annoying to so severely painful and they interfere with daily tasks. In addition to lower abdominal cramps and pain, symptoms that may accompany menstrual cramps include lower back pain, leg pain, hip pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, bloating, irritability, fatigue, feeling unwell (malaise), and in extreme cases, fainting spells.
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EndometriosisEndometriosis is a disease in which abnormal endometrial cells grow outside of the uterus and other organs commonly found in the pelvic area. Some women with endometriosis have no symptoms, but others with the disease may experience pelvic pain, pain during intercourse and during pelvic exams, cramping during sex, bowel movements, or while urinating. The four stages of endometriosis are minimal, mild, moderate, and severe. Medications and surgery are treatments for endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic condition and there is no cure.
Hormonal Methods of Birth ControlHormonal types and of options for birth control, and include patches, rings, implants, injections, and the birth control pill. Common side effects of hormonal methods of birth control are headaches, anxiety, acne, weight gain, mood changes, decrease in sex drive, heart attack, and stroke. No birth control methods is 100% effective, nor does it protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) occurs during the first two weeks before a woman begins her menstrual cycle. Symptoms of PMS include: mood changes, behavioral changes, changes in physical functions; like headache, palpitations, bloating, breast tenderness, constipation, weight gain, fatigue, and diarrhea. Treatment for PMS include lifestyle changes and OTC or prescription medication.
Vaginal Bleeding (Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods)In women, abnormal vaginal bleeding when is when they are not on their period (menstruation). Symptoms of abnormal vaginal bleeding outside of your period include red blood on the underwear or pajamas, pelvic or abdominal pain, and excessive pain from menstruating, or if you are pregnant. Causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding include unbalanced hormones, during pregnancy, after trauma, uterine fibroids, menopause, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Treatment for abnormal bleeding depends on the cause of the bleeding. Talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional if you have any abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.