At least three out of four menstruating women show symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
PMS signs and symptoms include bloating, food cravings, fatigue, nausea, irritability, depression, mood swings and tender breasts.
While the exact causes of PMS are still up for debate in the medical and research arenas, the physical and emotional symptoms associated with menstruation are thought to be related to but not necessarily caused by hormonal changes.
PMS symptoms tend to begin five-to-10 days before menstruation and end when bleeding starts.
PMS Signs and Symptoms
Researchers have identified more than 150 signs and symptoms for premenstrual syndrome but most women only experience a few of them.
The most common PMS symptoms include:
- abdominal cramping
- food cravings (usually sweet)
- sore breasts
Should I call the Doctor?
PMS symptoms can be a problem. Yet most women do not need to see a doctor as PMS signs and symptoms will usually disappear with the start of the menstrual period.
A small number of women suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS. PMDD symptoms are severe and debilitating. They include physical and psychological symptoms that affect a woman’s day-to-day activities and require medical treatment.
PMDD symptoms include anxiety, depression, anger, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty concentrating, irritability, paranoia and issues with self-image, coordination difficulties and tension.
Talking to a doctor is a good first step. There are treatments for some PMS and PMDD symptoms.
A PMS diagnosis is usually made through tracking monthly symptoms. Doctors used to treating PMS or PMDD will use your monthly symptoms to find patterns and create a tailor-made treatment program for you.
PMS treatment options
Every woman is different and every woman with PMS symptoms needs her own treatment.
- Good diet – Try to eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cutting down on salt intake and adding more fluids to your diet can help prevent bloating. Cutting down on sugar and alcohol can lower food cravings.
- Calcium – Studies show that taking calcium carbonate supplements can reduce symptoms of moodiness, depression, food craving and pain. The calcium supplement is also good for preventing and treating osteoporosis.
- Pain relievers — Over-the-counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen have shown to reduce cramps, headaches and muscle pain.
- Reducing stress – PMS sufferers have reported that stress can make symptoms worse. So, find an exercise or relaxation technique that you like to keep your symptoms in check. Endorphins, natural painkillers produced in the brain, are released during physical activity.
- Antidepressants – Studies show that women suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder respond well to low doses of antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa).
- Vitamin supplements – Research has shown that certain vitamin supplements – magnesium, iron, and the vitamins B6 and E – can be used to lessen premenstrual symptoms.
- Special formulas – New over-the-counter non-prescription formulas are now available to help alleviate the symptoms of PMS.
Always consult with your doctor before starting any treatment.
Knowing when your menstrual cycle is meant to take place and keeping track of any PMS symptoms can make a big difference in your life.