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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

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If you’re a woman of menstruating age, you’ve probably uttered the acronym PMS. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) describes a wide range of symptoms that occur anywhere from several days to two weeks before your period. The symptoms happen with every cycle and are often severe enough to limit your day-to-day activities, as well as negatively affect your mood and emotions.

PMS affects up to 75 percent of women in their childbearing years. The symptoms of PMS can appear any time between puberty and menopause, although the most common age for it to start to become a problem is during the late 20s to early 30s. Premenstrual syndrome goes away when you get pregnant or go through menopause.

Symptoms of PMS

The list of symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome includes emotional and physical issues. You may experience any combination of symptoms with each menstrual cycle.

The most common symptoms include irritability, bloating, fatigue, appetite changes and breast tenderness. Other symptoms of PMS include:

  • Tension or anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Crying spells
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Food cravings
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor concentration
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Causes and Risk Factors of PMS

PMS is most likely caused by rising and falling levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone may affect serotonin, a chemical in your brain that affects your mood. It's not clear why some women develop PMS and others don’t but it’s suspected that some women are more sensitive to hormonal changes.

Other possible causes of PMS include:

  • Low levels of vitamins and minerals
  • Eating a lot of salty foods, which may cause you to retain fluid
  • Drinking alcohol and caffeine, which may alter your mood and energy level

Tests to Diagnosis PMS

Your doctor will talk to you about your PMS symptoms, their severity and when they occur. You may want to keep a diary to keep track of your PMS symptoms and your menstrual cycles.

It’s likely your PMS symptoms will follow a general pattern:

  • They tend to increase in severity as your cycle progresses.
  • They improve within a few days of your menstrual period starting.
  • They are present for at least two to three consecutive menstrual cycles.

Your doctor may also recommend tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

Treatments and Therapies for Premenstrual Syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome treatments focus on alleviating symptoms or preventing complications. Treatment for PMS can include many different types of lifestyle changes and medications.

Your doctor may recommend a combination of the following treatments to help you get the most relief from your symptoms:

  • Eating a balanced diet and getting enough exercise to reduce weight gain, swelling and bloating.
  • Antidepressants to reduce mood swings, fatigue, food cravings and sleep problems.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease cramping and breast discomfort.
  • Diuretics to relieve bloating and fluid retention.
  • Oral contraceptives to stabilize hormonal fluctuations.
  • Vitamin supplements.

Surgical Procedures for PMS

In severe cases of premenstrual syndrome, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), it may be necessary to discuss surgical options with your doctor.

Surgical options include removing the uterus and ovaries, called hysterectomy with oophorectomy. Without ovaries, your body no longer produces estrogen or progesterone.

Oophorectomy and hysterectomy have their own side effects so surgery is only considered if:

  • PMS symptoms are severe and regularly disrupt your quality of life.
  • You do not want to get pregnant.
  • You are many years away from natural menopause.
  • All other treatments have failed.

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and want to learn more about what treatment and therapy options are available at A Place for Women, contact our practice at 321.939.3553.