Dysmenorrhea in adolescents and young adults: etiology and management

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2006 Dec;19(6):363-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2006.09.001.


Dysmenorrhea is the most common gynecologic complaint among adolescent and young adult females. Dysmenorrhea in adolescents and young adults is usually primary (functional), and is associated with normal ovulatory cycles and with no pelvic pathology. In approximately 10% of adolescents and young adults with severe dysmenorrhea symptoms, pelvic abnormalities such as endometriosis or uterine anomalies may be found. Potent prostaglandins and potent leukotrienes play an important role in generating dysmenorrhea symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are the most common pharmacologic treatment for dysmenorrhea. Adolescents and young adults with symptoms that do not respond to treatment with NSAIDs for 3 menstrual periods should be offered combined estrogen/progestin oral contraceptive pills for 3 menstrual cycles. Adolescents and young adults with dysmenorrhea who do not respond to this treatment should be evaluated for secondary causes of dysmenorrhea. The care provider's role is to explain about pathophysiology of dysmenorrhea to every adolescent and young adult female, address any concern that the patient has about her menstrual period, and review effective treatment options for dysmenorrhea with the patient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Dysmenorrhea / drug therapy*
  • Dysmenorrhea / etiology*
  • Dysmenorrhea / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal