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Premenstrual Syndrome

(PMS; Premenstrual Tension Syndrome)

Definition

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a disorder marked by physical and emotional symptoms. It affects women 1-2 weeks before the beginning of their menstrual period.

The Menstrual Flow

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

While the exact cause is not known, PMS may be related to certain factors (environmental, metabolic, or behavioral) that may make a woman more vulnerable to the hormonal changes that occur during menstruation.

Risk Factors    TOP

PMS most often occurs in women aged 25-40 years. Other factors that may increase your chance of PMS include:

  • Going off birth control pills
  • Major life stress
  • Depression

Symptoms    TOP

PMS may cause:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diminished self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Appetite changes, such as sugar and/or salt cravings, or overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Headache
  • Breast swelling and tenderness
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Muscle pain

Symptoms usually improve when bleeding starts (menstrual period).

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done.

You will be asked to keep a detailed record of your monthly physical and emotional symptoms. If caused by PMS, these symptoms will likely occur 1-2 weeks before your menstrual period. You may have PMS if symptoms occur at the same phase of the menstrual cycle each month.

Treatment    TOP

Treatment options include:

Stress Management

Stress may be managed through lifestyle changes. Relaxation techniques, deep breathing, massage, music, and hot baths can also help reduce stress.

Dietary Changes

Dietary changes may be helpful. Your doctor may recommend that you decrease your intake of salt, sugar, and caffeine. Eating small, frequent meals may also help.

Vitamins and Minerals    TOP

The following vitamin and mineral supplements might reduce PMS symptoms:

  • Vitamin E may reduce breast tenderness
  • Calcium may decrease bloating, depression, and aches
  • Magnesium may decrease pain, fluid retention, and improve mood
  • Manganese may help control symptoms of menstrual pain

Talk to your doctor before you take any supplements.

Regular Exercise    TOP

Exercising throughout the week may help to reduce your symptoms.

Medications    TOP

Medications to treat PMS include:

  • Diuretics to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
  • Pain relievers to relieve cramps, headaches, and muscle aches
  • Birth control pills to reduce physical symptoms
  • Antidepressants to reduce emotional symptoms

Psychotherapy    TOP

Women with severe PMS symptoms may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. Therapy may reduce negative emotions and enhance problem-solving skills in relationships. It may also manage obstacles, frustrations, and discomfort.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chance of getting PMS, take the following steps:

RESOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org/Patients
Office on Women's Health
http://www.womenshealth.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://sogc.org/publications-resources/patient-fact-sheets

References:

Premenstrual syndrome. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq057.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120824T1006488269. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Premenstrual syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 8, 2014. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed September 25, 2014.
4/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Brown J, Shaughn O'Brien PM, Marjoribanks J, Wyatt K. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for premenstrual syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(1):CD001396.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013