PMS Facts

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It can be difficult to diagnose but PMS is in fact a real condition that many women face every month of their reproductive years. The symptoms can vary from emotional symptoms to mental ones and also physical symptoms. They can experience mood swings, breast tenderness or breast swelling, bloating, fatigue, irritability, food cravings, and depression.

The symptoms can change from month to month and they can also change in intensity also. The symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe enough to seriously affect the woman’s life. Approximately 3 out of every four menstruating women experience PMS.

The emotional, mental or behavioral symptoms can range from tension and anxiety to depression, crying spells, mood swings, irritability, anger, food cravings and appetite changes, to insomnia, social withdrawal, and poor concentration.

The physical symptoms can also vary from pain in the joints or muscles to headache pain, fatigue, weight gain, abdominal bloating and cramping, breast tenderness, acne flare-ups and either diahhrea or constipation.

Some women experience mild symptoms needing no treatment but most who suffer from PMS have moderate to severe symptoms needing some kind of treatment. A small percentage of women have symptoms so severe that the symptoms are called premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. This severe form of PMS includes severe depression, deep feelings of hopelessness, anger, anxiety, or low self-esteem to difficulty concentrating, being irritable, or experiencing extreme tension. There are some women with PMDD that have underlying psychiatric disorders that may become worse with PMS or PMDD.

Women noticing any of the above symptoms should seek medical help if they are not able to handle the symptoms using lifestyle changes (improved diet and exercise) or if the symptoms they are having are seriously affecting their health or daily activities.

Keeping a symptom diary may help a doctor to diagnose the problem. It is important to keep an accurate record of symptoms for a minimum of two cycles. Record the date you first notice each symptom and the day the symptom disappears as well as the dates of your period each month (beginning and ending dates).

If diet and exercise improvements are not enough a doctor can prescribe medications such as antidepressants, birth control pills, diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or vitamin and calcium supplements to help bring relief.

An injection of medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo-Provera) is used to treat severe PMS or PMDD. This injection is used to stop ovulation on a temporary basis in order to decrease symptoms however it may increase the appetite, causing weight gain, and it can also cause a headache or depression; all of which are also PMS symptoms.
Lifestyle changes and home remedies are often preferred especially if the symptoms are mild in nature. A woman can modify her diet by eating six smaller meals instead of three big ones, which will help to reduce the bloating. She should limit her intake of salt to reduce bloating and fluid retention and choose foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and rich in calcium. It may be beneficial to take a daily multivitamin and to avoid caffeine and alcohol.

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