Menstrual Cramps (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps are pains that begin in the lower abdomen and pelvis. The discomfort can extend to the lower back or legs. The cramps can be a quite painful or simply a dull ache. They can be periodic or continual. Pain also may be felt in the lower back, inner thighs, or hips.

Menstrual cramps usually start shortly before the menstrual period, peak within 24 hours after the onset of the bleeding, and subside again after a day or two.

Menstrual cramps may be accompanied by a headache and/or nausea, which can lead, although infrequently, to the point of vomiting. Menstrual cramps can also be accompanied by either constipation or diarrhea because the prostaglandins which cause smooth muscles to contract also affect the intestinal tract. Some women experience an urge to urinate more frequently.

How are menstrual cramps diagnosed?

The diagnosis of menstrual cramps is usually made by the woman herself and reflects her individual perception of pain. Once a woman has experienced menstrual cramps, usually with the adolescent onset of her monthly menstrual flow (menses), she becomes well aware of the typical symptoms. If there are other medical conditions contributing to menstrual cramps (secondary dysmenorrhea), the doctor may suggest diagnostic testing including imaging studies.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/31/2014

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