Clin Obstet Gynecol. 1990 Mar;33(1):168-78. doi: 10.1097/00003081-199003000-00023.


PIP: A review of the clinical features, diagnosis and management of primary and secondary dysmenorrhea updates some old views. Dysmenorrhea is painful menstruation, either cramps with no visible cause, primary dysmenorrhea, or secondary to specific pelvic pathology. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs in as many as 50% of young women, only in ovulatory cycles, and usually limited to the first 48 or 72 hours of menstruation. Secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by any of a dozen or so disorders such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, IUDs, irregular cycles or infertility problems, ovarian cysts, adenomyosis, uterine myomas or polyps, intrauterine adhesions or cervical stenosis. Psychological factors are now known not to cause dysmenorrhea, only to add to the reactive component of the pain. The pain is due to uterine cramps, hypoxia or ischemia, due to overproduction of prostaglandins, leukotrienes or vasopressin. Thus, primary dysmenorrhea can be treated with oral contraceptives if the women wishes to take pills for contraception and they are not contraindicated, or with non-steroidal antiinflammatory agents for the full 72 hours after pain begins. Calcium channel-blockers are also used on a research basis; transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is sometimes effective. If these treatments are not effective, investigation for causes of secondary dysmenorrhea is indicated, preferably for laparoscopy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dysmenorrhea*
  • Female
  • Humans