Painful periods are not a fact of life. Learn more about what might be causing your symptoms.
Painful periods are common. While menstrual pain can often be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, extreme pain may indicate something more serious. Common causes include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fibroids and endometriosis.
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance, impacting 1 in 10 women between ages 15 and 44. The imbalance may hinder the egg from fully developing or being released in ovulation, resulting in irregular or fewer periods. The growth of cysts in the ovaries is a defining feature of PCOS that has been linked to infertility. Early development of PCOS has also been correlated with a greater likelihood of endometrial cancer and diabetes later in life.
In addition, it is estimated that as many as half of women of reproductive age have fibroids, or tumors made up of uterine muscle cells and connective tissues. Fortunately, more than 99 percent of these growths are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. They are, however, very painful. Symptoms include pain in the pelvis and lower back, heavy menstrual periods, atypical bleeding between periods and excessive urination. A firm pelvic mass may also develop.
Another condition known to cause significantly painful periods, as well as fertility problems, is endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterine wall and is shed during menstruation migrates and grows outside the uterus.
Take Back Control
To combat the pain and other symptoms associated with these conditions, doctors may prescribe oral contraceptives. Birth control pills prevent ovulation by reducing prostaglandin production, limiting period duration and the accompanying painful symptoms. Other remedies include heat application, acupuncture and changes in diet.