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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

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Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) definition and facts

  • PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome.
  • Premenstrual syndrome is a set of specific physical and psychological features.
  • Physical symptoms of PMS include breast tenderness and bloating.
  • Psychological symptoms and mood swings are common in PMS and may include anger and depression.
  • PMS occurs in the last half of a woman's menstrual cycle.
  • The exact cause of PMS is unknown but is believed to be related to interactions between sex hormones and brain chemicals (neurotransmitters).
  • PMS must be distinguished from other disorders that produce similar symptoms. PMS symptoms also must, in some cases, be distinguished from early pregnancy symptoms.
  • The only way to distinguish PMS symptoms from those of early pregnancy in the absence of a menstrual period is a pregnancy test.
  • A helpful diagnostic tool for PMS is a menstrual diary.
  • Natural treatment options and home remedies for PMS include exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and emotional support from family and friends.
  • Possible medical treatments to treat cramping and other symptoms of PMS include medications such as diuretics, pain killers, oral contraceptives, drugs that suppress ovarian function, and antidepressants.
  • The mood changes surrounding this condition have been described as early as the time of the ancient Greeks. However, it was not until 1931 that this disorder was officially recognized by the medical community. The term "premenstrual syndrome" was coined in 1953.

What is PMS (premenstrual syndrome)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of emotional, physical, psychological, and mood disturbances that occur after a woman's ovulation, typically ending with the onset of her menstrual flow. The most common mood-related symptoms are irritability, depression, crying, oversensitivity, and mood swings. The most common physical symptoms are fatigue, bloating, breast tenderness (mastalgia), acne, and appetite changes with food cravings.

A more severe form of PMS, known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), also known as late luteal phase dysphoric disorder, occurs in a smaller number of women and leads to significant loss of function because of unusually severe symptoms. The American Psychiatric Association characterizes PMDD as a severe form of PMS in which anger, irritability, and anxiety or tension are especially prominent.

How common is PMS (premenstrual syndrome)?

About 90% of women experience premenstrual symptoms at some point in their lifetime. The true incidence of PMS has often been overestimated by including all women who experience any physical or emotional symptoms prior to menstruation. It is estimated that clinically significant PMS (which is moderate to severe in intensity and affects a woman's functioning) occurs in 20% to 30% of women. It is generally most severe in women in their 4th decade of life. About 3% to 8% of women are believed to have the condition.

PMS vs. pregnancy symptoms

For certain women, the symptoms of PMS may be similar to those of early pregnancy, although this is highly individual. Many women do not experience symptoms in early pregnancy, while others may report breast tenderness, bloating, fatigue, and mood swings. These symptoms can be, for some women, similar to the symptoms of PMS or similar to the changes in their body they experience prior to the menstrual period. Unfortunately for women wondering whether specific symptoms are due to PMS or early pregnancy, the only definitive answer comes with the arrival of the menstrual period or a positive pregnancy test.

What causes PMS (premenstrual syndrome)?

PMS remains an enigma because of the wide-ranging symptoms and the difficulty in making a firm diagnosis. Several theories have been advanced to explain the cause of PMS. None of these theories have been proven, and specific treatment for PMS still largely lacks a solid scientific basis. Most evidence suggests that PMS results from the alterations in or interactions between the levels of sex hormones and brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

PMS does not appear to be specifically associated with any personality factors or specific personality types. Likewise, a number of studies have shown that psychological stress is not related to the severity of PMS.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/14/2016


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