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Dysmenorrhea is common and usually independent of, rather than secondary to, pelvic pathology. Dysmenorrhea occurs in 50% to 90% of adolescent girls and women of reproductive age and is a leading cause of absenteeism. Secondary dysmenorrhea as a result of endometriosis, pelvic anatomic abnormalities, or infection may present with progressive worsening of pain, abnormal uterine bleeding, vaginal discharge, or dyspareunia. Initial workup should include a menstrual history and pregnancy test for patients who are sexually active. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and hormonal contraceptives are first-line medical options that may be used independently or in combination. Because most progestin or estrogen-progestin combinations are effective, secondary indications, such as contraception, should be considered. Good evidence supports the effectiveness of some nonpharmacologic options, including exercise, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, heat therapy, and self-acupressure. If secondary dysmenorrhea is suspected, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or hormonal therapies may be effective, but further workup should include pelvic examination and ultrasonography. Referral to an obstetrician-gynecologist may be warranted for further evaluation and treatment.


Kathryn A McKenna, Corey D Fogleman. Dysmenorrhea. American family physician. 2021 Aug 01;104(2):164-170

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PMID: 34383437

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