Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a medical condition that causes a wide variety of symptoms in women just before their menstrual period. These symptoms can include: mood changes, irritability, tiredness, breast tenderness, food cravings and others. Physical and emotional changes associated with premenstrual syndrome can vary from somewhat noticeable all the way to extreme.
Premenstrual syndrome is most common in women who are between their late 20’s and early 40’s, have at least one child, have a family history of depression, or have a mood disorder.
Treatment and lifestyle changes can help manage and control signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in women.
Premenstrual syndrome symptoms vary from woman to woman and can cause emotional as well as physical changes.
Emotional signs and symptoms include:
- Appetite changes/ food cravings
- Sleeping difficulties
- Lack of concentration
Physical signs and symptoms include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Bloating and weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Breast swelling
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Pimple breakouts
Regardless of the severity, most signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome usually disappear within a few days after the start of the menstrual period.
A small percentage of women who are suffering from premenstrual syndrome and symptoms severe enough to interfere with their lives, the cause is a form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which typically involves symptoms such as depression, mood swings, rage, anxiety, lack of concentration, irritability and tension.
The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome is unknown; however there are several factors that may contribute to the condition:
- Hormonal changes in the body during a woman’s menstrual cycle
- Chemical changes in the brain (fluctuations of serotonin)
- Low levels of vitamins and minerals
- High levels of salt intake (retaining of fluid in the body)
Lack of exercise, stress and a poor diet can also aggravate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
For many women, lifestyle changes can help relieve PMS symptoms. Depending on the severity of the symptoms a woman is experiencing, a doctor may prescribe certain medications to relieve premenstrual syndrome.
The success of medications varies from woman to woman. Commonly prescribed medications for premenstrual syndrome include:
- Antidepressants: The use of certain antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and others can help reduce mood symptoms such as irritability, tension, anger and tearfulness. Usage may be limited to the two weeks before menstruation begins.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): The use of certain anti-inflammatory drugs can help ease cramping, breast tenderness and backaches.
- Diuretics: The use of water pills (diuretics) can help rid the body of excess fluid through the kidneys and ease some of the symptoms of PMS such as weight gain, swelling and bloating.
- Hormonal contraceptives: The use of certain prescription medications that are designed to stop ovulation and help relieve PMS symptoms.
Although there is no cure for PMS, making certain lifestyle changes can help manage PMS symptoms. These changes can include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding high levels of salt, alcohol and caffeine intake during menstrual cycle
- Learning techniques that can help relieve or control stress levels
- Getting a descent amount sleep (about 8 hours a night)
- In more severe cases, psychological therapy or hormone medications are recommended