Obstetrics and Gynecology – Dysmenorrhea: By Paul Davies M.D. is a global, free open access medical education (FOAMEd) project covering the fundamentals of clinical medicine with animations, lectures and concise summaries. is working with over 170 award-winning medical school professors to provide content in 200+ clinical presentations for use in the classroom and for physician CME.

Obstetrics and Gynecology – Dysmenorrhea
Whiteboard Animation Transcript
with Paul Davies, MD

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful cramping associated with menstruation. It is classified as “primary” if not associated with pelvic pathology, or “secondary” if associated with pelvic disease. Primary dysmenorrhea can be attributed to endogenous prostaglandins and most commonly presents in younger women. There are no abnormal physical exam findings, laboratory values, or imaging studies. It is effectively treated with NSAIDs. Secondary dysmenorrhea is usually due one of these three pelvic diseases:

Endometriosis, which is the growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterine cavity. Depending on its location it can be associated with such things as dyspareunia, bowel or bladder symptoms or infertility.Pelvic exam findings might reveal nodularity of the uterosacral ligaments or enlarged ovaries suggestive of endometriomas (ovarian endometriosis). Definitive diagnosis is made via laparoscopy at which time endometrial implants are visualized or biopsied. Treatment can include surgical resection, NSAIDs or hormonal therapy.

Adenomyosis, which is the growth of endometrial tissue into the uterine myometrium. In addition to dysmenorrhea it can also cause menorrhagia.An enlarged (up to the equivalent of a 12 week gestation) or tender uterus may be found on physical examination. Diagnosis is definitively made by surgical pathology. In some cases, adenomyosis is responsive to NSAIDs and hormonal therapy but the definitive treatment is total hysterectomy.

Fibroids are benign tumors of the uterine myometrium. They are associated with menorrhagia, infertility, and bowel and bladder symptoms. Fibroids can frequently be palpated on pelvic exam as an enlarged, irregular shaped, pelvic mass. Ultrasound or MRI confirm diagnosis, and treatment is directed by fertility desires. Pelvic pain is not always limited to gynecological origin. Remember to keep bowel and bladder pathology in your differential diagnosis.

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