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Conditions InDepth: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)


Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a disorder marked by physical and behavioral symptoms that occur in a cyclical pattern. They appear 1-2 weeks before an expected menstrual period and improve with the onset of menses. The nature and severity of symptoms vary. If your symptoms are so severe that they interfere with daily activities, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

The Menstrual Flow

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Many women of reproductive age have discomfort prior to menses, but a small number cases are thought to be categorized as PMS. This problem is most commonly seen between the ages of 25-34. An even smaller percentage of women with PMS have a very severe form called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Although the cause of PMS is not known, the cyclical pattern that parallels the menstrual cycle has directed the focus of study to hormonal changes. These changes are thought to act with other factors in the nervous system, as well as the environment, to trigger the symptoms of PMS.


Premenstrual syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated June 14, 2012. Accessed August 20, 2012.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at:
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Updated August 2010. Accessed August 20, 2012.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: h
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Updated May 18, 2010. Accessed August 20, 2012.



Last reviewed September 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Last Updated: 9/17/2014

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