Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Do you keep crying at those silly ads on television? Are you happy one moment but angry the next? Do you feel bloated, headachy, and tired? If so, perhaps you can blame these symptoms on PMS. If you are suffering from a variety of physical and emotional symptoms around the time of your period, than you may be among the millions of women worldwide who suffer from PMS. Though it is often joked about, PMS is no laughing matter. It can leave you feeling depressed, tired out, and unable to face the world. But effective treatment is available, from diet changes to botanical supplements.

What is PMS?
PMS is a syndrome that occurs just before your monthly period is supposed to begin. It actually encompasses of a bunch of horrible symptoms, ranging from PMS mood swings to the PMS blues, and it affects about 80% of all menstruating women. PMS tends to onset about midway through your cycle (around day 14 or about the time of ovulaiton) and continues until your period has begun. PMS can affect any woman at any time during her reproductive life and, unfortunately, tends to persist until after menopause. Luckily, there are a variety of PMS treatments that you can try to get relief.

Cause of PMS
Even though it affects so many women, researchers are still unsure why PMS happens. PMS is probably the result of changing hormone levels caused by your menstrual cycle. Because so many symptoms occur just before your period is due, it is probably the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels that is causing them to happen. However, it is also thought that diet may play a role in exacerbating symptoms.

PMS Symptoms
What makes PMS so irritating is that it causes symptoms that affect all the different aspects of your life. It causes physical complaints, mental problems, and it often wreaks emotional havoc. In fact, over 150 PMS symptoms have been documented through various studies. Most women exhibit just a handful of symptoms during their PMS, however, some women experience up to a dozen or more at one time.

Physical Symptoms:
We are all familiar with the physical signs of PMS. They include:

  • breast tenderness
  • back pain
  • muscle aches and pains
  • headache or migraine
  • bloating
  • weight gain
  • nausea
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • hunger cravings

Emotional / Mental Symptoms
PMS can also play games with your emotions and mental acuity. Mental symptoms of PMS include:

  • depression
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • unexplained crying
  • difficulty concentrating
  • decreased sex drive
  • indecision

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
For most women, PMS is just a pain in the neck, but for others it can be a severely debilitating disorder. In fact, almost 5% of American women suffer from severe PMS, and many have to rearrange their work, school, or social schedules around their symptoms. This severe form of PMS is actually called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. PMDD generally lasts longer than PMS, and for some women, it can last all month long.

Symptoms of PMDD are generally similar to PMS however they tend to be much more severe. Additionally, women with PMDD can experience severe depression and anxiety. Treatment for PMDD includes:

  • antidepressants, like Prozac, Celexa, and Paxil
  • anti-anxiety drugs, like alprazaolam
  • hormone therapy, including estrogen, progesterone, and GnRH

It's Not Just a "Woman Thing"
Though you may be cursing every male you know when you are suffering from PMS, recent evidence has shown that men actually suffer from PMS too. Irritable Male Syndrome, or IMS, produces symptoms that are very similar to those caused by PMS. Between 30% and 50% of men are thought to suffer regularly from male PMS symptoms including:

Like PMS, IMS is thought to be triggered by fluctuations in hormones, specifically testosterone, the male sex hormone. This is often brought on by episodes of stress and by high fat diets. In order to get male PMS relief, stress reduction and a low-fat, balanced diet is recommended.

Chat with other women about how to handle PMS and PMS symptoms in our menstruation forum.

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