Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has a wide variety of symptoms, including mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression. An estimated 3 of every 4 menstruating women experience some form of premenstrual syndrome. These problems tend to peak in your late 20s and early 30s.
Symptoms tend to recur in a predictable pattern. Yet the physical and emotional changes you experience with premenstrual syndrome may be particularly intense in some months and only slightly noticeable in others.
Still, you don't have to let these problems control your life. Treatments and lifestyle adjustments can help you reduce or manage the signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
The most common signs and symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome include:
Emotional and behavioral symptoms
Physical signs and symptoms
Although the list of potential signs and symptoms is long, most women with premenstrual syndrome experience only a few of these problems.
For some women, the physical pain and emotional stress are severe enough to affect their daily routines and activities. For most of these women, signs and symptoms disappear as the menstrual period begins.
But a few women with premenstrual syndrome have disabling symptoms every month. This form of PMS has its own psychiatric designation — premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome with signs and symptoms including severe depression, feelings of hopelessness, anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, irritability and tension. A number of women with severe PMS may have an underlying psychiatric disorder.
When to see a doctor
Exactly what causes premenstrual syndrome is unknown, but several factors may contribute to the condition:
Every month an egg is released from the ovary during ovulation (1). It travels down the fallopian tube, where it may be fertilized by a sperm. If fertilized, it implants in the lining of the uterus (...
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or primary care provider. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment you may be referred immediately to a doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the female reproductive tract (gynecologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
For premenstrual symptoms, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
There are no unique physical findings or laboratory tests to positively diagnose premenstrual syndrome. Your doctor may attribute a particular symptom to PMS if it's part of your predictable premenstrual pattern. To help establish a premenstrual pattern, your doctor may have you:
Treatments and drugs
Your doctor may prescribe one or more medications for premenstrual syndrome. The success of medications in relieving symptoms varies from woman to woman. Commonly prescribed medications for premenstrual syndrome include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
You can sometimes manage or reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome by making changes in the way you eat, exercise and approach daily life. Try these approaches:
Modify your diet
Incorporate exercise into your regular routine
Record your symptoms for a few months
Here's what's known about the effectiveness of some of the more common complementary products and remedies used to soothe the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome:
Last Updated: 2009-12-08
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