Painful Menstrual Periods
Painful menstrual periods (also called dysmenorrhea) may include pain in the abdomen, back and legs; abdominal cramps; headache; and fatigue. Most women have painful periods at some time in their lives. In some women, the pain is severe enough to interfere with normal activities.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
- Primary dysmenorrhea—painful regular (ovulatory) menstrual cycles caused by uterine muscle contractions (due to high levels of prostaglandins produced in the lining and body of the uterus after ovulation)
- Secondary dysmenorrhea—painful periods due to an underlying condition, such as endometriosis (a condition involving the lining of the uterus) or infection
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Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by high levels of prostaglandins in the uterus. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances normally found throughout the body.
Secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by:
Last reviewedSeptember 2012by Andrea Chisholm
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.