When Periods Hurt

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 11.01.41 AMSome aches and pains that can be cured with over-the-counter medication may be a normal part of your monthly period, but severe pain can be a sign of a more severe medical problem.

Endometriosis

In a healthy menstrual cycle, the endometrium—or cells lining the uterus— responds to hormones in the body by thickening throughout the menstrual cycle. The cells are shed from the uterus monthly and usually epelled from the body during a woman’s period. When a woman has endometriosis, stray endometrial cells migrate to other parts of the body, and can attach to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus and the pelvic cavity lining.

These endometrial growths remain in the body month after month, continuing to respond to the hormonal signals of the menstrual cycle, and may grow over time, causing symptoms . Women with endometriosis may experience:

• Extremely painful menstrual cramps

• Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis

• Spotting or bleeding between periods

• Infertility

• Diarrhea, constipation, bloating and nausea

Endometriosis was once believed to affect women who were middle age or older, but the condition can occur as early as the teenage years. If you suspect endometriosis, you should know that symptoms can be controlled, and surgical intervention is available for severe cases.

Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids are tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterine wall. Almost always noncancerous, uterine fibroids may grow as big as a grapefruit and can affect anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of women of child-bearing age.

You may not have any symptoms if you have fibroids, but heavy bleeding and pain during your period may indicate fibroids are present. Some women also experience a feeling of fullness in the lower stomach area, enlargement of the lower abdomen, frequent urination and complications during labor.

Treatment is available for women who have symptoms with their fibroids, including surgery to remove the fibroids or the entire uterus and over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms. Gonadotropic releasing hormone agents (GnRHa) can shrink your fibroids, and they are often used before surgery to make removal of the fibroids easier. GnRHa can have negative side effects, so talk with your physician about the best treatment option for you.

Diseases and Infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause abnormally painful periods. Once the STI is treated, period pain typically ends. However, left untreated, STIs can affect reproductive wellness as well as the health of the body. It is recommended that sexually active women be regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

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