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Dysmenorrhea in Adolescents

Diagnosis and Treatment


Dysmenorrhea occurs in the majority of adolescent girls and is the leading cause of recurrent short-term school absence in this group. In the vast majority of cases, a presumptive diagnosis of primary dysmenorrhea can be made based on a typical history of low anterior pelvic pain coinciding with the onset of menses and lasting 1–3 days with a negative physical examination. Risk factors for primary dysmenorrhea include nulliparity, heavy menstrual flow, and smoking. Poor mental health and social supports are other associations. Empiric therapy for primary dysmenorrhea can be initiated without diagnostic testing. Effective therapies include NSAIDs, oral contraceptives, and pharmacologic suppression of menstrual cycles. In atypical, severe, or refractory cases, imaging and/or laparoscopy should be performed to investigate secondary causes of dysmenorrhea. The most common cause of secondary dysmenorrhea is endometriosis, the treatment of which may include medical and surgical approaches. Pharmacologic treatment of young women with pain related to endometriosis is similar to treatment of primary dysmenorrhea but may infrequently include gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists in severe refractory cases.

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Fig. 1
Table I


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No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this article.

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Correspondence to Linda French.

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French, L. Dysmenorrhea in Adolescents. Pediatr-Drugs 10, 1–7 (2008).

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  • Endometriosis
  • Anastrozole
  • Goserelin
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
  • Sham Acupuncture