Premenstrual Syndrome

Updated: DECEMBER 9, 2019

Premenstrual syndrome describes the common physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms that signal the imminent onset of a menstrual period for many women. It is a very common condition experienced by between 75 and 90 percent of menstruating women. It typically starts one to two weeks before the period and subsides within four days of a period’s onset.

Premenstrual syndrome is commonly shortened to the acronym PMS.

More About Premenstrual Syndrome

Women who experience premenstrual syndrome typically get a variety of symptoms including mood swings, food cravings, fatigue, abdominal bloating, stomach cramps, headaches, acne, changes in sex drive, and depression. Premenstrual syndrome can also make other health conditions, such as migraines, allergies, and asthma, worse. Symptoms can vary from month to month, with women experiencing different symptoms or symptoms to differing degrees with each cycle. Most women experience just a few symptoms while others may experience a whole raft of side effects.

It’s not entirely clear what causes premenstrual syndrome, but many believe the hormonal changes that come with the imminent onset of a period may be a significant factor. A lack of serotonin in the brain during this time may also play a role.

In most cases, women have minor PMS symptoms which they can tolerate or reduce with lifestyle choices such as getting more sleep, eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and sugar, reducing stress, and exercising. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also alleviate stomach cramps and headaches. However, some women experience a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This condition has similar symptoms to premenstrual syndrome, but they are more intense.

Medical professionals can help women coping with premenstrual dysphoric disorder or other types of premenstrual syndrome that they struggle to manage alone. They may prescribe birth control pills, which typically reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and make periods more regular, or refer you to a therapist.


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