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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

What is premenstrual syndrome?

Most women experience some unpleasant or uncomfortable symptoms during their menstrual cycle. For some women, the symptoms are significant, but of short duration and not disabling. Other women, however, may have one or more of a broad range of symptoms that temporarily disturb normal functioning. These symptoms may last from a few hours to many days. The types and intensity of symptoms vary in individuals. This group of symptoms is referred to as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Although the symptoms usually cease with onset of the menstrual period, in some women, symptoms may last through and after their periods.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

The following are the most common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

mood alteration and psychological effects
  • irritability
  • nervousness
  • lack of control
  • agitation
  • anger
  • insomnia
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • lethargy
  • depression
  • severe fatigue
  • anxiety

fluid retention

  • edema

  • periodic weight gain

  • oliguria (diminished urine formation)

  • breast fullness and pain

respiratory problems

  • allergies
  • infections

eye complaints

  • visual disturbances
  • conjunctivitis
gastrointestinal symptoms
  • bloating
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • changes in appetite
  • pelvic heaviness or pressure
  • backache

skin problems

  • acne

  • neurodermatitis (skin inflammation with itching)

  • aggravation of other skin disorders

neurologic and vascular symptoms

  • headache

  • vertigo

  • syncope (fainting)

  • numbness, prickling, tingling, or heightened sensitivity of arms and/or legs

  • easy bruising

  • heart palpitations

What causes PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome seems to be related to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. The following has been suggested as possible causes of PMS:

  • estrogen-progesterone imbalance
  • hyperprolactinemia (excessive secretion of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates breast development)
  • excessive aldosterone, or ADH (hormone that functions in the regulation of the metabolism of sodium, chloride, and potassium)
  • carbohydrate metabolism changes
  • retention of sodium and water by the kidneys
  • hypoglycemia (low blood-glucose)
  • allergy to progesterone
  • psychogenic factors

Treatment for PMS:

Specific treatment for PMS will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disorder
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disorder
  • your opinion or preference

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, counseling with your physician regarding symptoms can increase understanding and lead to activities for stress management. Other possible treatment protocols for managing premenstrual syndrome symptoms may include:

  • diuretic use prior to the time symptoms are usually noted (to reduce fluid retention)
  • oral contraceptives
  • progesterone (hormone treatment)
  • tranquilizers
  • changing the diet (to increase protein and decrease sugar and caffeine intake)
  • vitamin supplements
  • regular exercise
  • antidepressant medication

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Online Resources of Women's Health

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