Skip to content

Women's Health

Select An Article

Your Guide to Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS

Font Size

Premenstrual syndrome, commonly called PMS, is a medical condition that has symptoms that affect many women of childbearing age. PMS can cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms that occur just before your menstrual period.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology defines PMS as "The cyclic occurrence of symptoms that are sufficiently severe to interfere with some aspects of life, and that appear with consistent and predictable relationship to the menses [menstrual period]."

Women’s Health Slideshows

From fighting fatigue to keeping your weight in check, look and feel better with these visual guides to better understanding your health.

What Causes PMS?

The exact cause of PMS is unknown, but it seems to be related to the fluctuating levels of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, that occur in preparation for menstruation.

What Are the Symptoms of PMS?

There are many PMS symptoms. The number and severity of symptoms vary from woman to woman. In addition, the severity of the symptoms can vary from each month. Common PMS symptoms include:

 

  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight gain
  • Aggression
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches/backaches
  • Food cravings/overeating
  • Fatigue
  • Tearfulness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings and/or depression

Up to 85% of menstruating women experience some of these symptoms related to their period, while only 2%-10% experience severe symptoms.

How Is PMS Diagnosed?

There is no single test to diagnose PMS. However, there are some strategies your health care provider may use to help make the diagnosis, including:

  • Thyroid test. Because thyroid disease is common in women of childbearing age, and some of the symptoms of PMS -- such as weight gain -- are similar to symptoms of thyroid disease, a test may be done to evaluate how well your thyroid is functioning. This can help to rule out a thyroid problem as a cause of your symptoms.
  • PMS symptoms diary. You may be asked to keep a diary of your PMS symptoms for two or three consecutive months, when they occur, and how long they last. By doing this, you can see if your symptoms correspond to certain times in your monthly cycle. While your symptoms may vary from month to month, a trend likely will appear after tracking them for a few months.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, you have PMS if:

  • Your symptoms occur during the last two weeks of your menstrual cycle (the two weeks before your period)
  • Your symptoms impair your quality of life
  • Your doctor has excluded other conditions that cause similar symptoms; these conditions include thyroid disease, depression, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
 
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
insomnia
Is it menopause or something else?
 
woman in bathtub
Slideshow
Doctor discussing screening with patient
VIDEO
 
bp app on smartwatch and phone
Slideshow
iud
Expert views
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
Slideshow
hot water bottle on stomach
Quiz
 
question
Assessment
Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
Quiz