Viagra for menstrual cramps - Know the facts

The medical term for painful menstrual periods is primary dysmenorrhea (PD). According to the Human Reproduction Journal, over 30 percent of women suffer from PD, and PD is the cause of 600 million hours of lost work in the United States every year. Menstrual cramps are often felt in the lower abdomen or lower back and range from dull to severe pain. Although these cramps typically begin during ovulation, pain can occur before menstruation and during menstruation. With PD, there is no underlying physical problem responsible for causing the pain. Conversely, secondary dysmenorrhea (SD) is due to a medical problem, such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, cervical stenosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Causes and Diagnosis Methods for PD

During the menstrual cycle, the uterus contracts to rid the lining. The process of uterine contraction is initiated by hormone substances known as prostaglandins. Uterine contraction is the primary cause of pain during cramps. During contraction, blood flow is inhibited to the uterine lining, and the result is pain. There are also additional risk factors that can cause uncomfortable menstrual cramps, including early puberty, menorrhagia, emotional stress, less than 20 years of age and never having given birth. According to researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago, women with delayed sleep phase syndrome are more likely to experience painful menstrual cramps.

For the most part, women are able to identify PD on their own. In cases of extreme pain, physicians may recommend having an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging for a more detailed look at the Fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, abdominal and vagina areas. Imaging tests are important for the identification and ruling out of ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis and adhesions.

Treatment for PD

Over-the-counter medications known as anti-prostaglandins are often used to treat the painful symptoms associated with PD. Many of these medications also contain pain relievers, such as naproxen or ibuprofen. These medications are types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Anti-prostaglandins reduce cramping in the uterus and also decrease period flow. Researchers at Imperial College of London have conducted studies that revealed chamomile tea is effective in the reduction of menstrual pain.

Recently, researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine collaborated with researchers from Croatia in a study of Viagra for menstrual pain. Although Viagra had been used before to treat PD, it often caused headaches when taken orally. Researchers and other medical professionals decided to utilize a different strategy and administer the drug vaginally. It was felt that this application could dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow directly to the uterus. The study group consisted of 25 women. Some received 100 milligrams of Viagra while others received a placebo. Those who had taken Viagra had significant reduction in menstrual pain when compared to the placebo group. In addition, there were no side effects that often come with oral use.

When first introduced as a blood medication, Viagra rapidly morphed into a popular treatment for erectile dysfunction. Again, it just might morph into a treatment for PD. The Croatian study was the first of its kind in the vaginal administration of Viagra. Since the study was small, future studies confirming these findings are in the works. As a matter of fact, the same team that led the research in Croatia has applied for additional grants to continue this promising research. Future studies are focused on further comparing the oral and vaginal administration of Viagra. Until then, doctors in the United States won’t be prescribing Viagra for PD anytime soon. It could be years before Viagra is clinically indicated for treatment of PD.

Although not yet prescribed for treatment of PD in the United States, Viagra is prescribed for women in Israel. Due to no established clinical indication for use of the drug for PD, there are strict regulations. Every time doctors in Israel prescribe Viagra for PD, a special form must be filled out and forwarded to the Health Ministry for unconventional use of a drug. Since its patent expired, the price of Viagra pills has gone down significantly.

Other future use of Viagra possibly on the horizon is for weight loss. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany report that this drug helps burn fat in laboratory mice. It was found that white fat cells were changed into energy-burning cells in mice that were given Viagra. Currently, Viagra is FDA-approved for erectile dysfunction.


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