OCs - they're not just for birth control anymore!! Okay, so that's a bit on the cheeky side but it also makes a valid point. When most people think of oral contraceptives, their use as a form of birth control is the first (and usually only) thought that comes to mind. Such is not the case for the many women who are currently taking those little pills on a daily basis. As a way to disseminate inportant information about the use of OCs while traveling (and maybe dispell a few myths along the way) this section of the Travel Health Guide will try to cover issues that regularly appear in the Travel Forums. Whether considered contraversial material or not, the use of OCs is as much as a reality as traveling. So, shall we begin?
As stated in the Introduction, almost everyone knows that oral contraceptives are prescribed most often for the #1 reason: contraception by oral administration. A pretty straight forward descriptive classification. But, like many prescribed medications, OCs are multi-functional and are used to correct several other medical conditions as well. This section will (hopefully) explain a few of those conditions so travelers understand abstinance/condoms are not the answers to certain problems and OCs are not just a medication one can stop taking when traveling.
Acne is the general term for clogged pores, which varies in presentation/severity, and almost everyone experiences some form of acne during their lifetime. Most will deal with blackheads and pimples. (Who came up with the term pimple anyway???) Others will develop a more severe form of acne charaterized by cysts, inflammation, skin damage and scarring.
Women suffering from the severe form of acne may be placed on oral contraceptives when other treatments have not been effective. The OCs supress the overactive (sebaceous) glands responsible for clogging the pores and creating the cysts. Treatment may take several months before marked improvement is evident.
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods - pure and simple. It is also the #1 menstrual complaint among teens and women in their 20s. Within this age group, the most prominent cause of dysmenorrhea is an increased hormonal release that intensifies the uterine contractions and constricts uterine blood flow during menses. Basically, it's an internal muscle cramp that seems to last forever. This increased hormonal release can also cause nausea, vomiting, headache and diarrhea.
Hormonally-triggered dysmenorrhea will usually decrease in severity as a woman increases in age. But, during the teens and twenties decades, oral contraceptives may be prescribed to bring the hormones back into alignment. Though there are several options for treating the condition (anti-inflammatories, heating pads, exercise regimens), OCs may be the only effective choice for certain women.
It should be noted that there are many other reasons for a woman to experience dysmenorrhea. These conditions are classifed as secondary disorders related to an underlying disease state. These disorders can include (but are not inclusive to) endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and tumors. All women should consult their doctor/gynocologist if they experience severe dysmenorrhea.
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