Most women who complain of abdominal cramps know right off the bat what's causing their distress. While harmless and perfectly normal in most cases, menstrual cramps can be inconvenient and sometimes downright debilitating. Female Caucasians are also more susceptible to gallstones, making this condition another cause of abdominal cramps in women.
Menstrual cramps occur when the smooth muscle lining of the uterus contracts to shed the blood and tissue that have collected during the month in anticipation of potential pregnancy. Some women experience very mild cramps, and have no trouble living as they normally would during "that time of the month," while others may be so debilitated by the pain that they remain bedridden for several days after the bleeding commences. Menstrual cramps are one of the main causes of abdominal cramps in women. Very severe pain may indicate a vitamin deficiency, but otherwise these cramps are considered normal.
Abnormal Menstrual Pain
Some conditions may cause menstruation to be unreasonably painful. Endometriosis, a condition in which the cells of the uterine lining escape and thrive in other parts of the body, may cause extremely painful menstrual cramps and periods for afflicted women. Unfortunately, endometriosis cannot be cured, and all treatments are designed to manage pain and side effects rather than to eliminate the disease. Another of the more abnormal causes of abdominal cramps in women is ovarian cancer, which can cause intense pain during menstruation and ovulation.
Overweight, pre-menopausal, Caucasian women are most at risk for the development of gallstones. Unfortunately, this describes many of America's citizens! Gallstones are one of the most common causes of abdominal cramps in women, and can result in intense periods of abdominal pain accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting. Gallstones do not always cause pain, and can remain asymptomatic for years before they become a problem; as most are comprised mainly of cholesterol, it may behoove women at risk to consider a low-fat, low cholesterol diet as a means of prevention.
A woman who experiences abdominal cramps or pain unrelated to menstruation or gallstones is likely suffering from a non-gender specific condition. Mild, harmless ailments may include the stomach flu, traveler's diarrhea, lactose intolerance, or constipation. Sudden, acute pain may be the result of organ inflammation or infection such as appendicitis; this is extremely dangerous, and abdominal pain that lasts for more than 12 hours and is accompanied by a fever should warrant a visit to the hospital.
It should be noted that the severity of pain levels will not necessarily correlate with the severity of the condition present. Common causes of abdominal cramps in women such as menstruation may cause severe pain but be essentially harmless, while cancers and other ailments may exist within the body for years without causing more than the occasional twinge of discomfort. Inexplicable pain should always be treated with caution, as it is difficult to predict how the body will respond to any particular disease.
Most abdominal cramping that women experience will be normal, and should be managed with painkillers and proper dietary guidelines. If these measures do not suffice, your doctor is the best person to consult for additional aid.