What is Premenstrual Syndrome?

Overview  |  Symptoms  |  Causes  |  Diagnosis  |  Treatment

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common condition – affecting nine out of 10 women –  which occurs before your period. It is the name given to the psychological, behavioural and physical symptoms that happen each month. PMS, which can range from mild to severe and tends to disappear once your period starts. PMS typically affects older teenage girls more than younger teenage girls, and women in their 40s are usually affected the worst.

Symptoms of PMS

There are many symptoms associated with PMS that have been reported; the most common are:

  • anxiety
  • feeling irritable and/or aggressive
  • mood swings
  • trouble sleeping
  • tiredness
  • loss of confidence
  • loss of libido
  • clumsiness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • bloating
  • weight Gain
  • swelling in breasts and/or tenderness
  • headaches
  • backache
  • increased appetite
  • joint and/or muscle pain
  • spots

Causes of PMS

Currently, the cause of PMS is unknown, although it is suggested that certain factors contribute to symptoms. There is no evidence to prove that PMS symptoms are caused by a hormone imbalance. However, during the menstrual cycle, hormone levels are constantly changing and some suggest that increased sensitivity may affect levels of serotonin in the brain.  Serotonin is a chemical which regulates our moods, with high levels of serotonin making us feel happier, therefore if serotonin levels are affected, our mood changes.

How is PMS Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of PMS is based on symptoms as there are not any tests for it. Your doctor may ask you how you have been feeling and when you experience symptoms.

Treating PMS

Currently, there is no cure for PMS, which means that the aim of treatment is symptom management. If you suspect that you have PMS, small lifestyle changes can be extremely beneficial in relieving symptoms. Having a balanced diet and eating healthily may help with symptoms as well as regular exercise.

If your symptoms of PMS are severe, you may be advised to use medication, such as painkillers; your doctor may also recommend that you use the contraceptive pill, patch or implant. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may also be offered. They are usually prescribed to people suffering from depression, however, they have proved useful in relieving symptoms of PMS.