An Overview of Premenstrual Syndrome



In the two weeks prior to the menses appearing each month a woman may experience a pattern of symptoms or group of symptoms known as Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS. There are more than 150 different symptoms in this group ranging from mild to severe. The symptoms can be of a physical nature, emotional or psychological. 80% of menstruating women will experience PMS with 20% to 40% of them experiencing PMS symptoms so severe that they find it impossible to function.

Experts do not know what causes premenstrual syndrome but studies are being done to help answer this question and others. It is likely that there may be a combination of genetic, hormonal, nutritional, physiological and behavioral factors involved in that develops PMS.

There is no exact test or series of tests that will diagnose PMS. A doctor may conduct laboratory tests to help rule out other disorders, diseases or conditions that may have similar or the same symptoms. The most important clue that what a woman is experiencing may be PMS is that her symptoms are cyclic in nature and occur in the two week time period between the release of the egg (ovulation) and menses often referred to as the Luteal phase of menstruation. Typically when the menses starts the symptoms disappear.

There are more than 150 signs and symptoms of PMS including mood-related symptoms such as anxiety, anger, irritability, mood swings, sadness and depression. Mental or cognitive symptoms include a decrease in the ability to concentrate, indecisiveness and confusion. Painful symptoms include headaches, migraines, joint pain, muscle pain, cramping, and breast tenderness.

Nervous system symptoms that may occur during PMS include sleeplessness or insomnia, hypersomnia (sleeping for longer than normal periods of time), anorexia which is a loss of appetite, food cravings, especially for sweets, fatigue, lethargy, agitation, clumsiness, dizziness, vertigo, a prickling or tingling sensation and changes in sex drive.

Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.

Symptoms that are connected to fluid or electrolyes include bloating, weight gain, and reduced urination.

Women may also experience increased heartbeats or palpitations (fluttering of the heart), sweating, increased acne, oily skin, and greasy or dry hair.

The doctor will help the woman to develop a treatment plan based on her symptoms and the plan is likely to include a combination of diet and lifestyle improvements, exercise, getting plenty of rest, stress reduction by using exercise, and relaxation techniques such as yoga. Treatment may also include medication, vitamin or mineral supplements, herbal therapy or alternative treatments or natural medicine. OTC medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and preparations such as Pamprin and Midol have been used by many women to relieve PMS symptoms. Doctors may prescribe diuretics, antihistamines or antidepressants to help relieve symptoms of PMS.

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