Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the term used to describe a group of physical or behavioral changes that some women experience before their menstrual period begins each month. PMS can produce discomfort in different parts of the body; it can also cause unpleasant emotional feelings. For reasons that remain unclear, these physical discomforts or mood changes begin at various times near the end of the menstrual period. They reappear at about the same time each month.

Most women with PMS have symptoms that cause a mild or moderate degree of distress. In about 10% of women with PMS, symptoms may be severe. PMS can have a major impact on the lives of women. It can trigger marital and family conflicts, inhibit a woman from functioning at work and at home, and cause her to become socially isolated.

Some physical changes that some women experience:

  • bloating
  • weight gain
  • breast soreness
  • abdominal swelling
  • headache
  • clumsiness
  • constipation
  • swollen hands and feet
  • fatigue

Behavioral changes that can occur:

  • depression
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • tension
  • mood swings
  • inability to concentrate
  • a change in sex drive

You don't have to have all of the symptoms listed above to have a diagnosis of PMS. Most women with MS have only certain ones; the severity of discomfort felt also varies from woman to woman. Some months may be more stressful than others. Occasionally, PMS disappears temporarily for no reason.

No one knows what exactly causes PMS but one thing that is certain is that the symptoms occur at exactly the same time each month - every month. The symptoms appear at some time during the last half of the cycle and usually disappear promptly as soon as the period begins. This pattern must be repeated for at least two cycles before PMS is considered as a possible cause. To help your Doctor diagnose you properly it is helpful to keep a diary of your monthly cycle. Make note as to when and what symptoms appear, how severe they are on each day and when they disappear.

There are no cures for PMS, yet. There are some medications that can help relieve some symptoms. For your Doctor to make the best decision on your course of treatment he or she needs an accurate list of your symptoms. It is important to work closely with your doctor because it may take a few attempts before finding the one that works for you.

Small changes in your diet and exercise routine can provide some relief. Try avoiding salt and reducing caffeine. some doctors recommend reduction of caffeine before each menstrual period as the first step to coping with PMS. A vigorous exercise program can strengthen muscle, reduce fat, relieve tension, elevate mood and improve alertness. Depression can sometimes be lifted by exercise. It also aids in improving quality of sleep.

There are other medical problems that are not related to PMS but can cause similar symptoms:

  • Fibrocystic breast changes, in which benign (not cancerous) lumps in the breast become swollen and painful
  • Endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that looks and acts like the inner lining of the uterus is found outside of the uterus in the pelvis - at menstruation, this tissue bleeds lightly and the blood irritates the nearby tissue, causing pain
  • Dysmenorrhea, or painful menstrual cramps - this condition is often confused with PMS
  • Diabetes, thyroid problems or allergies
  • Emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety, or mood swings.
  • Stress