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PMS Health Center

Feel Like Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde Certain Times of the Month?

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WebMD Health News

Sept. 29, 2000 -- Virtually every woman knows when her period is coming. The bloating, the breast tenderness, the "munchies," and mood swings are known and typically endured because the symptoms are relatively mild for most women. For approximately 5% of women, though, this time is true agony.

Fortunately, relief can be found, surprisingly enough, in the form of a type of antidepressant drug. Prozac is an example of a drug in this category, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. However, several other SSRIs have also been used successfully.

In a recent study, British investigators found that patients with severe PMS report significant relief from their symptoms. The study was a review of several major studies and was reported in the journal The Lancet. Among the over 900 patients involved, those on SSRIs were nearly seven times as likely to report relief as those on a placebo.

"We reviewed 15 high-quality trials, which found that SSRIs are effective for both physical and behavioral symptoms associated with PMS," lead author Paul Dimmock, PhD, tells WebMD. Dimmock is a research fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Keele University and North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, England.

How do you know if your premenstrual syndrome is severe? According to Diana L. Dell, MD, it could be, if the following conditions are present:

  • You have at least five of the following problems during the week before your period: depression, anxiety, irritability, or rapid mood swings; decreased interest in usual activities and in socializing; fatigue; a sensation of feeling overwhelmed; food cravings; changes in sleep patterns; physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, headaches, or bloating
  • These symptoms have occurred within most cycles in the last year
  • These symptoms significantly interfere with your quality of life
  • The symptoms are resolved when your period starts, or shortly thereafter
  • You have kept a diary of your symptoms and confirmed whether they occur premenstrually
  • Your physician has ruled out other medical conditions

If the first three conditions are met, you may want to talk to your doctor, says Dell, an assistant professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

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