What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
Most women have tender breasts, bloating, and muscle aches a few days before they start their menstrual periods. These are normal premenstrual symptoms. But when they disrupt your daily life, they are called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS can affect your body, your mood, and how you act in the days leading up to your menstrual period.
What causes PMS?
PMS is tied to hormone changes that happen during your menstrual cycle. Doctors don't fully know why premenstrual symptoms are worse in some women than in others. They do know that for many women, PMS runs in the family.
Not getting enough vitamin B6, calcium, or magnesium in the foods you eat can increase your chances of getting PMS. High stress, a lack of exercise, and too much caffeine can make your symptoms worse.
What are the symptoms?
Common physical signs include:
It is also common to:
- Feel sad, angry, irritable, or anxious.
- Be less alert.
- Have trouble focusing on tasks.
- Withdraw from family and friends.
PMS symptoms may be mild or strong and vary from month to month. When PMS symptoms are severe, the condition is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). But PMDD is rare.
How is PMS diagnosed?
Your doctor will want you to keep a written record of your symptoms for 2 to 3 months. This is called a menstrual diary. It can help you track when your symptoms start, how bad they are, and how long they last. Your doctor can use this diary to help diagnose PMS.
How is it treated?
A few lifestyle changes will probably help you feel better.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods, especially foods rich in calcium. Include whole grains, protein, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and salt.
- For pain, try aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), or another anti-inflammatory medicine.
Talk to your doctor if these changes don't provide some relief from your symptoms after a few menstrual cycles. He or she can prescribe medicine for problems such as bloating or for more severe PMS symptoms. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can relieve both physical and emotional symptoms. Low-estrogen birth control pills may help relieve severe PMS or PMDD.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about premenstrual syndrome (PMS):